Health IT Experts Develop the “Wizard” for Easier Health Record Access

Sept. 27, 2018
A new tool has been developed that aims to streamline the process of patients getting copies of their medical records.

A new tool has been developed that aims to streamline the process of patients getting copies of their medical records.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of patients request copies of their medical records under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the nation's privacy law. However, completing the request often means filling out confusing paperwork and struggling to obtain electronic formats that can be easily placed in an app or other secure location.

As such, a group of health information technology experts have joined forces to develop a new digital health records request approach, released last week at the Biden Cancer Summit in Washington, D.C. Led by X4 Health, an organization founded by consumer advocates, the new prototype tool, called the "Health Record Request Wizard," looks to streamline and simplify the records request process while promoting digital formats. The effort was supported by a grant from the Commonwealth Fund.

The tool is the result of a year-long research and development effort to build upon the popular model form previously created by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), a key collaborator in the Wizard creation.

The Wizard is a digital "smart form" that uses branch logic and skip patterns to help consumers articulate what they need, in what format and by when. It results in a highly specific, HIPAA-compliant document delivered to the healthcare provider's medical records specialist. The project involved testing with consumers and health information management professionals, according to officials.

Aneesh Chopra, president of CareJourney and former U.S. Chief Technology Officer, served as an advisor on the Wizard project and said in a statement, "The Wizard is a true consensus-driven reference implementation for something we so desperately need—an easy way for patients to request digital copies of their health data in the form and format of their choice. By designing the Wizard with key stakeholders—patients, medical records professionals, apps, and others—it offers an 'easy button' for implementation. As such, I call on all healthcare providers to adopt and use this framework."

According to officials, a number of leading healthcare organizations have committed to incorporating key lessons from the Wizard project, and potentially the tool itself, into their own work.

"The Wizard takes the model form, developed by our member volunteers at AHIMA, one step further," said Pamela L. Lane, vice president for policy and government relations at AHIMA. "It provides an innovative tool that can be used by health information management professionals to change workflow processing for consumer-generated information requests. The Wizard will help create ever-better consumer engagement experiences by streamlining complexity in the healthcare environment."