The high fees many patients still face to obtain copies of their own electronic medical records are limiting their access, according to a new article published by JAMA Internal Medicine.
Fees exceed $1 per page of records in some states, such as Minnesota, where patients might spend more than $200 for 150 pages of medical records.
- More states should adopt a policy like the one enacted in Kentucky, which requires providing patients the first copy of their medical record for free, the authors recommend.
Federal guidelines introduced last year have not stopped some providers from charging exorbitant fees for patients to access their health information. Providers are allowed to charge for labor associated with gathering records, printing or digital media supplies, postage, and preparation of summaries.
However, many providers still rely on state rules governing access to medical records and fee schedules set by states are not often based on actual costs of labor and supplies. Patients can be deterred from having inaccurate information corrected, getting second opinions, and donating data for research, the authors wrote. “Preventing this access restricts patient choice about where they seek their medical care, and ultimately undermines patient empowerment and patient centered care - both of which result in better care satisfaction and outcomes,” Daniel Walker, a researcher at Ohio State University, told Reuters.
Increased adoption of electronic medical records "should make it easier and less expensive to obtain a copy of one's own medical records," the article states. Some health data available in EMRs might not be as robust as those available on paper. But efforts to improve the information available in EMRs, as well as the utility of that information, are ongoing and might make discussions of paper-based records a thing of the past.