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More patients requesting access to medical records, ONC says

The three in five people who were offered and who accessed their online record or patient portal last year was a 50% increase over 2020.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Photo: Solskin/Getty Images

More and more patients are accessing their medical records via patient portals or apps on their phones and tablets, and the frequency with which they access these records is increasing, according to a new from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

In 2022, about threein fivepeople were offered and accessed their online medical records or patient portals. They increased their use of apps to access their online medical records between 2020 and 2022, while web-only access to portals decreased, the numbers show.

People who used an app to access their online medical records accessed them more frequently. They used their ability to access their online medical records for many purposes, the most common being to view test results and clinical notes.

Individuals had online medical records or patient portals with a variety of organization/provider types, but most commonly with their primary care providers.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT?

Enabling patients to access and use the information contained in online medical records and patient portals may provide significant health system benefits, including decreased healthcare costs and strengthened patient-physician relationships, according to the report.

In 2020, ONC published the to increase patient and provider access to health-related data, specifically through health IT developer adoption of secure standardized application programming interfaces (APIs) that make this information more widely available across smartphone apps.

The API requirements, which as of this year have been rolled out to healthcare providers, enable patients to electronically access their electronic health information using apps.

And they're doing so. The threein fivepeople who were offered and accessed their online record or patient portal last year represented a 50% increase over 2020. About threein fourpeople were at least offered online access to their records, itself a 24% increase over 2020.

More than half of individuals who were offered online access to their medical records reported accessing them at least three times in 2022, with nearly onein theeaccessing it six or more times. And only onein fiveindividuals reported not accessing their online medical records in the past year, a more than 50% reduction since 2017, when nearly half of patients offered online access to their medical records did not access them.

Nearly half of those who accessed their online medical records (48%) did so using a website only, whereas 19% used an app only and about one third (32%) used both an app and website.

Rates of frequent access – meaning six or more times in the past year – were significantly higher among people who accessed their online medical record using an app compared to those who used only a web-based method (42% vs. 28%). Only 26% of app users reported infrequent access (one or two times in the past year) compared to 40% of individuals who accessed via web-only. A similar share of those using an app and using the web to access their online medical records reported accessing their online medical records three to five times in the past year.

Most people who accessed their online medical records or patient portal viewed test results (90%) or clinical notes (70%). About one in three downloaded their health information, and one in five electronically transmitted medical information to a third party.

While people most commonly had an online medical record or patient portal through their primary care provider's office (63%), nearly one in three also reported having an online medical record or patient portal with another healthcare provider (32%) or insurer (29%). Clinical laboratory and pharmacy online medical records or portals were the least common (reported by 26% and 23% of individuals, respectively).

THE LARGER TREND

ONC said that despite the advances in patient access to their medical records, there are opportunities for improvement. Relatively low rates of downloading and transmitting health information by people who access their online medical records suggests a need for further education of both individuals and providers on these features, the agency said.

ONC provides guidance for patients and providers in the , a clinically-facing tool detailing ways to facilitate easy patient enrollment and ensure that online medical records and patient portals are accessible, as well as the patient-facing , which serves as a resource to guide patients through the process of accessing their online medical records.

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer:Jeff.Lagasse@himssmedia.com