ONC Releases Patient Handbook on Health Record Access

April 15, 2018


The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) has published a new patient handbook on health information access. The handbook goes through how patients can retrieve their health data, offers guidance for verifying health records and rectifying mistakes and summarizes how patients can utilize their health files and share their health info.

The HIPAA Secrecy Law lets patients the right to download copies of health info kept by their providers, yet even though the Secrecy Law became law on April 14, 2001, several people still don’t know their entitlement to access their health files or how this can be finished.

Increasing patient access to health files is a main focus for the HHS and ONC. In 2016, ONC issued a series of videos for patients in which their entitlement to access their own health files was described. This latest handbook goes deeper into that direction a step more and acts as a practical guide to obtaining copies of electronic health files to make the procedure as easy as possible.

The book named ONC Guide to Getting and Using your Health Data creates part of the ONC’s MyHealthEData program, which aims to increase patient involvement in their own healthcare and helps the 21st Century Cures Act objective of improving access to electronic health info.

Remarking on the release Don Rucker, M.D. national coordinator for health information technology said: “It’s important that patients, as well as their caregivers, have access to their own health information so they can make decisions concerning their care and cures. This handbook will help answer a few of the questions that patients might have when asking for their health information.”

Although patients are allowed the entitlement to access their health files, numerous still face hurdles to getting access. Among the focuses of the new online document is to explain how patients can deal with those challenges. Among those hurdles is opposition from healthcare suppliers when patients ask for electronic copies of their health files.

By ensuring patients are aware of their rights, if they meet opposition from a supplier – or health plan – they will be able to clearly define their rights and will be authorized to overcome that challenge.

Ensuring patients can just access their health data is only one part of the trouble. Many patients don’t know why they should access their health data and the significance of doing so. The handbook helps to describe the benefits and why it is significant to take a more active part in their own healthcare administration.

Figures lately circulated by ONC indicate that although 52% of patients have been provided with access to their health files online, just half of those patients accessed their health data, equal to 28% of Americans.

When patients were interrogated on why they didn’t see their medical record when they might do so over the Internet online, 76% said they favored to talk with their supplier on a one-to-one basis and 59% didn’t have a requirement to see their online record.

ONC’s figures disclose that when patients are encouraged to see their health files by their providers they are more likely to do so. 63% of patients who were encouraged to see their medical record online did so as compared to only 38% who were not encouraged to do so. Healthcare providers can, therefore, play a big role in increasing patient engagement. The new handbook will also help in that regard.

The handbook also provides practical advice on the use of health applications and other know-hows that can let patients manage their health data and enhance their health.