ONC study finds difficulty in patients obtaining their medical records

Newswire: July 13, 2017.

Dateline: Washington

Acquiring heath records is often difficult for patients or caregivers managing a health crisis, switching doctors or even going to see a specialist, says a report from the U.S. Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, or ONC.

The report found patients are generally unaware of the law requiring that consumers be given access to their records within 30 days of requesting them. Either patients don’t know that or it isn’t explained to them. Once patients do get their records, they often found them incomplete or inaccurate, requiring a second contact to get the correct or missing information.

The report features case studies of three people who requested their records and the lengths they had to go to in getting them. For example, the mother of a young daughter with epilepsy had to collect records from five specialists, each of whom had a different procedure for record request.

For their part, records supervisors said the incomplete or fragmented nature of their records — some of which were available only on paper — hindered their ability to fulfill requests.

The report made several suggestions to improve patient access to records and the processes for delivering them. They include:

  • Setting up an electronic records request system outside of the portal.
  • Using e-verification to quickly confirm the record requestor’s identity.
  • Offering a status bar or tracker so consumers can track the progress of their records request.

For the report, issued this week, researchers interviewed 17 consumers and four records administrators. They also analyzed medical release information from 50 healthcare providers in 32 states.

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