- While hospitals give the vast majority of patients the ability to get their medical information online, only 10% of patients access it, according to research published this week in Health Affairs.
- Hospitals that are part of a larger system were more likely to see patients engage with online records as well as teaching and public hospitals. Lowest access rates were for people at hospitals receiving the most in disproportionate share hospitals payments and those with a high mix of dual eligible patients, the study showed.
- Larger hospitals were more likely to see increases in use, whereas those in areas with less access to computers and the internet were least likely to see a positive change.
The findings build on other research showing low patient uptake of online medical records access. A paper published earlier this year by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT found that while more than 70% of hospitals allowed patients to view, download and transmit their health information online, two-thirds of hospitals said fewer than a quarter of patients accessed their portals.
That's despite repeated attempts from CMS to highlight the issue as key to broader patient engagement and ownership of their health issues. Early this year, HHS released proposed rules to promote interoperability, curb information blocking and mandate free patient access to electronic records. The final rules are currently under review by the Office of Management and Budget and are expected to be released before the end of this year.
Still, the Health Affairs study authors said the efforts haven't accomplished enough. "Overall, our findings suggest that policy efforts have failed to engage a large portion of patients in the electronic use of their data or to bridge the 'digital divide' that accompanies health care disparities," they wrote.
The researchers said the results showed the effect providers can have on adoption of electronic health information and said an update to the Promoting Interoperability Program might be warranted.
That program, previously called Meaningful Use, has decreased requirements for patient use and patient access over time in response to provider complaints, despite its original plan to gradually ramp up milestones.
"Our study suggests that a higher threshold for both measures might be more achievable than providers claim and that CMS may wish to reconsider this decision moving forward," the researchers wrote.