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Patient, Provider Opinions Diverge on Patient Health Data Access

92% of patients want full health data access, while only 18% of providers feel the same way.

By Sara Heath

Patients are overwhelmingly in favor of full patient health data access via EHRs and patient portals, according to a recent Accenture survey, but providers don’t exactly feel the same way.

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The survey found that 92 percent of patients feel they should have complete access to their EHR, while seven percent feel they should have limited access and only one percent feel they should have no access at all.

Although most patients feel they should have complete access to their health records – not just a summary from their providers – physicians think access should be more limited.

Only 18 percent of providers think patients should have full access to their EHRs, while 74 percent think they should have limited access. A total of seven percent of physicians think patients shouldn’t have access at all.

Despite those diverging opinions, patient health data access is at an all-time high, with more and more people taking control of their own health.

More patients have especially taken ownership of their health in digital forms, specifically through EHRs. Over the past two years, the number of patients accessing their own health data via EHR has jumped from 27 percent of patients to 45 percent of patients. Those patients also want to be able to update parts of their own records, including family history, demographic information, and new symptoms.

When it comes to patient health data access, age also seems to play a role. Older patients ages 65 to 74 are accessing their EHRs 38 percent of the time, while younger patients ages 18 to 34 are only accessing them 22 percent of the time.

Although it has long been said in the healthcare industry that older patients are reluctant to adopt their patient portals and access their EHRs, this trend has been proven otherwise in several other recent studies.

Experts from athenaResearch concluded such earlier this year, explaining that perhaps these older patients are more likely to digitally access health information because a technologically savvy generation is now filling that older population.

“If you look at patients in their 60s and up to 65, a lot of those patients are still in the workforce. They’ve had iPhones for 10 years since they were in their mid-50s,” said David Clain, manager at athenaResearch.

“So I think that a lot of those patients are comfortable with using technology, and a patient portal may be a new approach to working with their physicians in a way that they didn’t do before, but they’re comfortable getting online, they’re comfortable using their phones to get on a portal, or using a computer.”

Another survey conducted by Welltok, shows that older patients are still looking to improve their health, and are turning to health IT and patient engagement to do so. Over 90 percent of older patients reported having some kind of health goal, and want to use health IT to achieve it.

“These results confirm that seniors, just like any other age group, want to live healthier and longer, but they are not feeling empowered to do so by the healthcare system,” said Michelle Snyder, chief marketing officer for Welltok. “There is a real opportunity to better understand this population at an individual level and drive real change by connecting them with the right guidance, resources and incentives, in the right way.”

Going forward, providers will need to determine what their goals are with regard to EHRs, patient access to health information, and patient portals. Although the research in this survey shows that some providers may be resistant to patients having full access to their health information, others show that high patient engagement leads to better care results, particularly in the burgeoning value-based payment transition.

Providers will also need to assess how they want to address gaps in portal adoption and access to health information. Although many patients report wanting access to their health data, there are still disparities. In the future, providers will need to determine the best course of action to make sure the most amount of patients are accessing the appropriate amount of information.

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