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New Tool to Simplify Patient Data Access, Medical Records Request

The Health Records Request Wizard will streamline patient data access and simplify medical records requests, developers say.

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Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- A group of healthcare industry stakeholders have developed the Health Records Request Wizard, a tool aimed at allowing seamless patient data access.

The tool, whose prototype was announced at last week’s Biden Cancer Summit, seeks to make it easier for patients to request digital copies of their medical information and download their information on relevant patient engagement technologies.

The tool was created to overcome the many barriers patients experience when requesting access to their own medical records. Currently, patients must formally request medical record access, completing the requisite materials to adhere to HIPAA guidelines.

But this process can be cumbersome for patients, often keeping some patients from engaging with their own medical records and promoting the misconception that patients do not have a right to their own medical records.

This new tool offers a solution to that problem, according to Christine Bechtel, co-founder and president of X4 Health, one of the Health Records Request Wizard’s founding groups.

“The Wizard is a game-changer for patients, families, and health care providers alike,” Bechdel said in a statement. “This tool will help bring an outdated process into the 21st century and make it easier to obtain and organize health records in electronic formats, ultimately helping create a comprehensive picture of a person's health.”

The tool developers worked off an existing pilot platform developed by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). The Health Records Request Wizard is an entirely digital technology that creates a “smart form” for medical records requests. Using branch logic and skip patterns, the tool helps patients better articulate the type of medical data they need and for what purposes. This allows the tool to create a customized, patient-centered request form that is also HIPAA compliant.

“The Wizard takes the model form, developed by our member volunteers at AHIMA, one step further,” said Pamela L. Lane, vice president for policy and government relations at AHIMA. “It provides an innovative tool that can be used by health information management professionals to change workflow processing for consumer-generated information requests. The Wizard will help create ever-better consumer engagement experiences by streamlining complexity in the healthcare environment.”

Developers on the project say the tool should be somewhat seamless to implement because it has been built with input from key stakeholders, including patients, providers, health information management professionals, and other healthcare administrators. Organizations involved in development on the Wizard project include HIMA, CARIN Alliance, CareJourney, Swellbox, and patient and family representative groups.

Each of this stakeholder groups had significant stake in overcoming the numerous obstacles to patient data access as it currently exists, according to Aneesh Chopra, president of CareJourney and former US Chief Technology Officer.

“The Wizard is a true consensus-driven reference implementation for something we so desperately need – an easy way for patients to request digital copies of their health data in the form and format of their choice,” Chopra, who served as a senior advisory on the Wizard project, said. “By designing the Wizard with key stakeholders – patients, medical records professionals, apps, and others – it offers an 'easy button' for implementation. As such, I call on all health care providers to adopt and use this framework.”

Some healthcare organizations are already working to adopt the framework, including CIOX Health, a company dedicated to streamlining medical records access requests.

Other organizations committing to adopting the Health Records Request Wizard framework include:

  • AHIMA
  • CareJourney
  • CARIN Alliance
  • Ciitizen
  • CIOX
  • Door County Medical Center
  • Marshfield Clinic Health System
  • National Partnership for Women & Families
  • NewWave
  • Norton Healthcare
  • Swellbox
  • Texas State University Department of Health Information Management
  • University of Wisconsin HIM and Technology Program
  • X4 Health

As noted above, patients experience numerous barriers when accessing their own medical records. Patients must complete a set of forms in order for organizations to allow for HIPAA-compliant medical records access. That form can be cumbersome, and for patients with low health literacy could cause considerable confusion.

The Request Wizard presents one opportunity for medical industry leaders to support patients in their right to access their own medical records.

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