Electronic Health Records (EHR) mandates had an added benefit of significantly improving access for all responsible healthcare workers at a patient’s bedside. The nurse will use a medical cart on wheels with drawers and a laptop, enters the data, and the patient’s doctor has instant access.

However, what about the patient? In today’s digital age, everyone accesses information from anywhere on the planet. Why can’t a patient access information on his or her own healthcare?

Allowing patient access to electronic medical records has several advantages and disadvantages.

Background

One of the stated purposes of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that required public and private healthcare facilities to institute electronic patient records was engaging patients in his or her own healthcare.

Engagement in today’s information age means the ability to access, review, and discuss a patient’s own records and results.

Many hospitals have included a patient portal to permit patients to access information related to their care.

Those clinics that do not have patient portals deliberate about what to include and worry if the disadvantages of a patient portal outweigh the advantages.

Legal Requirements

Currently there is no mandate requiring care facilities to permit patient access to their records.

There are, however, some senators and congressmen who have strongly indicated the desire to legislate a patient records access right under federal law.

Most countries have laws or regulations, giving citizens the right to certain types of medical information related to his or her own care.

Advantage: Improving Patient Engagement

Allowing patient access allows patients to take ownership of his or her own care management. The patient feels connected to the clinic and will likely continue to patronize the facility.

Patients can more easily send and receive messages, make appointments, and get questions answered quicker.

Patients can use their own electronic devices to access their records whenever they need or want to do so.

Checking on prescriptions and requesting refills is also more straightforward with a patient portal.

Disadvantage: Increased Risk of Data Breeches

Opening a patient portal also increases the risk of data breeches. Administrators can mitigate this risk by installing secure firewalls and other IT security measures to keep patient portals from becoming entryways into the electronic health records system for all patients.

The patient portal must require strong passwords and have robust encryption.

Advantage: Eliminates Patient Intake Angst

One of the biggest inconveniencies of visiting a clinic or hospital is filling out the intake forms. Allowing access to the system permits patients to enter his or her data securely rather than filling out seemingly endless forms before seeing a doctor.

This also means patients don’t have to fill out the same medical history forms each time they visit or fill out a shot record more than once.

Disadvantage: Doctor Comments and Medical Jargon

With patient access to medical records, all comments are visible, including negative ones.

Patients may misconstrue comments that only appear negative but, in reality, are not.

Most patients too will not know the various terminologies and shorthand used by medical professionals. The patient may get confused and this can lead to misunderstandings.

Advantage: Lab Results

Patients find getting lab results immediately when posted a very positive feature of patient portals. The patient does not have to wait days for the results to be mailed or wait for the hospital or lab to call.

Disadvantage: Computer Luddites

Older patients may not know how to operate computers and electronic software as well as younger patients. This unfamiliarity may confuse them.

Administrators can overcome this disadvantage easily by education and patience, ensuring that simplified training brochures and videos are available, with designated ways for the patient to get personalized help if needed.

Archie Harrington’s parents and siblings are all doctors, and even though he never pursued a medical degree himself, it has always held his interest. He uses his passion for writing to explore a myriad of medical topics, including dentistry, medical implements, and laws pertaining to the healthcare of today.
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