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Patient Data Access News

69% of Hospitals Give Patients View, Download, Transmit Access

The ONC has issued a data brief showing a significant increase in view, download, transmit access to improve patient engagement.

By Sara Heath

More providers than ever are offering full health data access to their patients, according to a new ONC data brief.

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The brief shows that view, download, and transmit (VDT) capabilities for patients have surged since 2013, when only 10 percent of hospitals allowed their patients to engage with their own information.  

In 2015, 95 percent of hospitals allowed patients to view their health data, 87 percent allowed them to download, and 71 percent allowed them to transmit. Sixty-nine percent of hospitals offered full VDT capabilities.

Medium-sized and large hospitals were more likely to allow health data access, with 78 percent and 71 percent offering VDT capabilities, respectively.

In 2013, not a single state could say that more than 40 percent of their hospitals enabled VDT data access.  By 2015, all states had at least 40 percent of their hospitals with these capabilities.

In nine states, more than  80 percent of hospitals are equipped with VDT capabilities.  . These states include Alaska, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Vermont.

The data brief also shows that hospitals are becoming familiar with  multiple patient engagement strategies. Forty-three percent of hospitals reported having between seven and nine online patient engagement capabilities. Another 43 percent reported having four to six. Only 14 percent of hospitals had fewer than four.

This shows growth since 2013, when 60 percent of hospitals had between zero and six online patient engagement strategies, and only 38 percent had seven to nine.

By 2015, three-quarters of hospitals allowed patients to request changes to their health records and online bill pay. Over 40 percent of hospitals allowed patients to schedule appointments and request prescription refills online.

Although few hospitals reported that they accept patient-generated health data, the trend is growing. In 2013, only 13 percent of hospitals offered this capability. That number has now risen to 37 percent.

In situations when hospitals have to choose their investments carefully, strategies driven by regulatory needs may be edging out other more convenience-oriented patient engagement initiatives, such as the ability to make appointments or fill prescriptions.

“For example, only about 4 in 10 hospitals offer patients the ability to schedule appointments or refill medications in contrast to about 3 in 4 hospitals that enable patients to electronically request amendments to their medical record or pay their bills online,” the ONC said.

These statistics are likely good news for ONC, which has been actively encouraging  patient access to health data. Earlier this year, the agency issued educational videos to help patients understand their rights to their data under HIPAA.

The ONC has also pushed for better interoperability between patient and provider devices. Through requirements for application programming interfaces (APIs) and the Blue Button Initiative, the ONC has worked to boost the number of patients accessing their health data.

These improvements are also important in light of the impending start to MACRA, which includes requirements for VDT capabilities. As a part of the Merit-based Incentive Payment System, healthcare providers must fulfill patient health data access requirements as a part of both the base score and performance score for MIPS.

The base score requires at least one patient to electronically view, download, or transmit their health data. Likewise, the performance score requires a one-patient threshold for VDT functionality.

According to ONC, patients may either view and download their health data through an API, transmit the data to a third-party provider, or complete a combination of the two in order to fulfill the requirement.

As the MACRA reporting period will begin on January 1, 2017, it will be important for providers to continue down this path for VDT functionality. In order to meet these regulations, clinicians must ensure that their systems enable patients to view, download, and transmit their data, helping them to successfully meet the program requirements.

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