With the tech media telling the healthcare industry to open up health records to patients, one would think people would be quickly jumping on the opportunity as soon as their health data is available for access. That, however, is not the case with only about one in 10 discharged hospital patients with access to their electronic medical records going online to take a look.
The study that looked into data collected from 2,410 U.S. hospitals between 2014 and 2016 has found that 95% of discharged patients were provided with access to view, download and transmit their electronic health information. But only about 10% of patients actually accessed their data.
“This suggests that there is significant room for improvement in engaging patients with their information electronically,” the study team, led by Sunny Lin of Oregon Health and Science University-Portland State University School of Public Health, writes in Health Affairs.
“Overall, our findings suggest that policy efforts have failed to engage a large proportion of patients in the electronic use of their data or to bridge the ‘digital divide’ that accompanies health care disparities,” the authors write.
Compared to patients at for-profit hospitals, those treated elsewhere were less likely to have access to their records but more likely to take advantage of access when it was available.
Also, people treated at major teaching hospitals were more likely to access records and the probability that they would do so increased over time, the study found.
Unsurprisingly, patients without computer or internet availability at home were less likely to be discharged with access to electronic records than people with these amenities. They were also less likely to access records even when this was possible in theory.
Researchers found a similar pattern for patients seen at hospitals that were part of larger health systems.
“Under-resourced hospitals and hospitals in counties with a high percentage of underserved populations have lower levels of access and use,” the researchers conclude. “Policy makers seeking to improve patient-centered care should therefore consider efforts to reduce this persistent digital divide by targeting both hospital- and patient-facing determinants of electronic health information access and use.”
We would add that it’s not just up to policymakers and hospitals to market this capability to the patients; smartphone and platform vendors could also chip in and create easy to grasp solutions like Apple’s Health Records. Although there is no data I could quote, I would assume iPhone owners tend to be more proactive with their health, and are consequently, more likely to access their health data.