There is no better time for the health IT community to come together under one umbrella to raise national awareness of the benefits information technology can bring to the US health system. National Health IT (NHIT) Week is a nationwide awareness week focused on the value of health IT. Each year, NHIT Week Partners educate industry and policy stakeholders on the value of health IT for the US healthcare system. During NHIT Week, our valued partners will share their voice and experience on how they demonstrate the value of health IT.
You’re a parent. You have a 10 year old son. Want to keep track of what he’s watching? Easy. You can set-up a Netflix account that has age appropriate filters and check-in on the account. Want to confirm that he had a specific vaccine as a baby before heading off to Summer camp? Not so easy. You might have to call the pediatrician’s office and request that the records be at best emailed to you, and more often still, faxed.
We recently conducted a survey of over 1,100 U.S. adults on consumer healthcare behavior that showed the industry lagging on technology – with nearly 1 in 3 patients reporting they cannot easily access their medical records. Compared to record-keeping of other important items, 74% of today’s healthcare consumers reported keeping good or very good records on their vehicle vs. only 62% on the health of their dependents!
The Personal Health Record
Today, several PHR (personal health record) companies have emerged that try to solve this gap. However, they may not connect with the facilities that you visit and if your insurance provider changes, there may be issues in data transfer. And most importantly, caution must be used that the vendor is reliable since PHRs contain sensitive information.
Gathering the Historical Data
Next, is the issue of gathering the historical data itself. Most doctors’ offices won’t email records, and you can expect to submit a form or letter requesting your records or those of a dependent. While a doctor cannot deny you access to your medical records, some do charge an additional fee for providing this service. Oftentimes, even records within an EMR/EHR system must be requested by letter first.
An Incomplete Record
While some of the data like lab reports, visit summaries, and vaccinations records are easily transferred on written forms, medical imaging often remains an enormous challenge to share. Traditionally, medical images have been transferred on CDs and patients frequently never see their images. However, our study found that 80% of respondents said they would like to have access to their imaging alongside their test results, implying the need for patient facing reports that can be easily understood. Of course, it’s critical that patients are given a thorough explanation of images and results by a referring physician before they appear in any kind of patient portal. Access to this data and imaging could prove invaluable for an individual facing a chronic condition or caring for a loved one with serious health concerns.
Women Would Particularly Benefit from Access to Dependent Records
One aspect we found particularly interesting in our survey was that women trusted the cloud and online management of health a bit less than men. However, women, perhaps even more than men, could greatly benefit from easy access to dependent health records. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that women, whether working full-time, part-time, or stay-at-home mothers, are still the primary caretakers for the health of their children and often, elderly parents. In the study, 40% of women reported considerable stress in managing the health needs of someone other than themselves.
While the unification of patient health records can greatly reduce stress for those managing dependents’ health, it can also provide invaluable health benefits. For example, mammograms are best reviewed in terms of comparisons to priors. A patient who has moved states and does not have access to prior imaging loses the ability to have priors reviewed. At best, if anything in the imaging is of concern, the prior images are able to be mailed on CD within a few days to the new physician. However, these are still a few days of additional worry and concern for a patient. And at worst, the patient may face further imaging or unnecessary biopsies if priors can’t be accessed.
Imagine a Netflix-style Family Plan for Health Records
Imagine a seamless platform just like Netflix, where each individual you managed had an account. Upon clicking on their account, you’d find access to their entire health picture, including imaging. Now, while this doesn’t quite exist yet, healthcare is slowly but surely moving in a direction of interoperability. Doctor’s offices are starting by offering patient portals with visit summaries, medication lists, lab results, and some have even added image-enablement. We’ve also seen many imaging centers themselves offer a patient portal where patients can view reports and images after they’ve been sent to the referring physician.
And better yet, some states now participate in HIEs (Health Information Exchanges) that gather all of a patient’s data within a region. This is invaluable for patients with a condition like cancer, who often require a team of physicians.
What is clear, is that patients need access to their own health records and those of dependents to allow providers to offer the best care possible.
Want to Learn More?
To learn more about our survey’s findings, you can access the full report on today’s healthcare consumer here, or listen in to a webinar we hosted on September 28th that covered actionable insights providers can take away from the survey. You can hear a recording of the webinar here.