On July 11, 2017, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) released a new report on Improving the Health Records Request Process for Patients. ONC notes that it is currently challenging for patients to request and obtain access to their own electronic health records. In an effort to make it easier for patients to request and manage their own data, the report reviews the medical request process from both the patient and health system views and provides recommendations to improve the records request process to be more streamlined, transparent, and user-friendly.
Recommendations from the report to improve the process for patients and health systems include:
- Allowing patients to easily request and receive their records from their patient portal
- Setting up an electronic records request system outside of the patient portal
- Creating a user-friendly, plain language online request process
- Using e-verification to quickly confirm the record requestor’s identity
- Including a status bar or progress tracker so consumers can see where they are in the request process — for example, indicate when the request is received, when their records are being retrieved, and when they’re ready for delivery
- Making sure consumers know that they can request their record in different formats (such as
PDF or CD) and delivered in the way they choose (such as by email or sent to a third party)
- Providing user friendly, plain language instructions for patients and caregivers on how to request health records, what to expect, and who to contact with questions
These recommendations encourage patients to use patient portals by promoting features like online appointment scheduling, secure messaging and prescription refills, in order to enhance their healthcare experience.