PatientEngagementHIT

Patient Data Access News

Only 20% of Patients Use EHR Access to Make Medical Decisions

Although nearly 60 percent of patients have EHR access, very few of them actually get the full value of the technology.

By Sara Heath

While sixty percent of patients have EHR access through the patient portal, very few actually use it to make medical decisions, states a new survey from HealthMine.

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The poll of 500 patients revealed that 55 percent only use their EHR access to stay informed of their clinical data, rather than fully engage in patient provider conversations, and only 22 percent of consumers use EHR data to make medical decisions.

Less  than one percent use it for other purposes. Forty percent of patients do not have EHR access.

Of the consumers who did report having EHR access, a substantial amount of them aren’t gleaning much value from it.

While 71 percent of patients are able to easily access and make sense of their health data, 15 percent have more difficulty understanding the information. Ten percent of respondents said they are able to access their EHR data but don’t actually do so, and four percent said they cannot access their EHR data or do not know how to.

Another substantial portion of patients aren’t able to view all of their physician-input EHR data, either. The most commonly accessible data include lab work and blood test results and prescription medication history, with 69 and 60 percent of patients reporting such respectively.

Over 50 percent of patients also reported access to billing information and their personal profiles, including demographic data.

Fifty-six percent of patients were able to see everything their physicians put into the EHR.

According to HealthMine president and CEO Bryce Davis, patient access to health data is less common because patient portal and EHR adoption are still in their earlier stages.

"Electronic health records are still in the early phases of consumer adoption. They have the potential to engage consumers more directly in managing their health,” Davis explained. "Wellness programs can help bridge the gap between EHR adoption and understanding by making the information both meaningful and actionable for patients."

Other research showed similar findings. In a recent study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, a team of scientists found that patients mostly look to use their patient portals and EHR summaries as a means to stay informed, not to spark discussion with their providers.

“Our study found that behavioral beliefs related to patient access of information through the [after visit summary], specifically the ability to track visits and tests, have medical information more readily accessible, and obtain medical information more efficiently, were more important than beliefs about patient engagement in their health care, such as clarifying issues with their doctor or reinforcing instructions,” the researchers determined.

These results were notable, the research team explained, because of the focus the healthcare industry gives on using patient portals and EHR data as a means to foster robust patient engagement. Health technology is one of the most regularly noted tools for boosting patient provider communications.

These two studies indicate that more work needs to be done in order to get the most out of patient portal adoption and patient EHR use. Pushing provider buy-in is one of the first steps the industry can make to improve overall patient engagement, researchers say.

“It is possible that the use of the [after visit summary] to engage patients in their health care is not being promoted,” the researchers said, highlighting the need for better provider activation in promoting patient engagement. “Such efforts can lead to patient activation and the use of information by patients to undertake recommended treatment plans and self-management, both of which are important goals for the [patient portal].”

By inciting physicians to promote patient portal adoption and consumer EHR use, they can help encourage patients to take an even larger claim in their healthcare, helping them to engage in shared decision making and open up discussions surrounding their own health and wellness.

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