Patients have come to expect a digital, not paper-laden, experience in modern healthcare. As the world becomes apt in online access of nearly anything, your practice needs to know a few things about the demand for a digital healthcare experience.
The Demand For Digital Healthcare
A recent article in the New York Times identified how access to the electronic health record is on the verge of becoming law. Patients have always had the right to request copies of their healthcare records. Yet, obtaining such copies usually warranted intensive searches through file cabinets and folders.
The electronic health record (EHR), which includes patient intake forms and information for existing and new patient registration forms, can simplify the demand for patient access. Additionally, participants in Stage 2 of the Medicare Incentive Program, reports HealthIT.gov, must grant patient’s access to healthcare records to maintain compliance with the program.
The Driving Force
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a new set of guidelines for patients’ right to access health records earlier this year. Now, practices and physicians must also consider the following factors:
- Practices must release health records upon request within 30 days, but within four days if an EHR is being used.
- Practices cannot deny the health record request without a reasonable cause, such as the record is part of an ongoing legal investigation.
- Practices cannot require a patient to pick up patient registration forms or any other health records in person.
- Practices must be able to provide a suitable, digital copy of the record to the patient, even if it requires the scanning and emailing of existing documents.
- Practices must take action to safeguard against breaches during transmission of the health record, such as setting up a secure method of verification in an online patient portal.
Next Steps For Practices
The aforementioned requirements imply a general sense of accessibility on the patient-end of the EHR. Failure to produce digital or physical records appropriately may result in a complaint about a practice to the HHS Office of Civil Rights and the imposition of a settlement amount (fine).
As reported by HealthIT.gov, nearly 50 percent of all patients who were given access to the EHR and patient intake forms accessed their records online regularly. 10 percent of those patients used this information to enhance their overall quality and level of care in other practices as well. Since a near-majority of patients indicate a need for online access to the EHR, can your practice remain credible among patients without providing such access?