Providing Electronic Access

HIPAA HITECH and Omnibus have added to the requirement to allow patients to receive a copy of their medical records. In addition to a paper copy, they now have the right to receive an electronic copy if the provider uses an electronic medical record.

When patients and families are well informed of their medical condition and recommended care plans, they are more likely to comply with their provider's recommended regimens and are less likely to experience negative health effects due to non-compliance. Unfortunately, many patients do not remember or understand the instructions of their health care provider. This lack of understanding may be due to instructions that are not clearly written or language that that is too difficult for those with limited health literacy. Additionally, more basic communication problems may contribute to non-compliance, such as a patient's difficulty reading or speaking English, or because the medical instructions are not culturally relevant. Thus, it is important that patients have access to their health information and that this information is up to date.

Three objectives address the topic of providing patients with electronic access to and copies of their health information:

  • Provide patients with an electronic copy of their health information (core objective)
  • Provide patients with an electronic copy of their discharge instructions (core objective)
  • Provide timely electronic access to health information (menu set objective)

You may provide this health information to patients using various electronic means such as a patient portal, Personal Health Records (PHR), or electronic media such as CDs or USB. Providers are expected to make reasonable accommodations for patient preference. Some patients (possibly those without Internet access) may prefer their information on CD or USB. The disadvantages of the CD and USB are that they cannot be readily updated and they are relatively expensive to provide. Thus, patient portals and PHRs appear to be more up-to-date and efficient for both providers and patients.

The patient still has to make the request for the records in writing and the provider still has up to 30 days to respond to the request.