ONC Releases Resource to Guide Consumers on Accessing, Using their Health Data

April 9, 2018
To further support its recently-announced MyHealthEData initiative, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has just released a new online resource to help consumers make better use of their digital health records.

To further support its recently-announced MyHealthEData initiative, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has just released a new online resource to help consumers make better use of their digital health records.

The resource, the “Guide to Getting & Using Your Health Records,” supports both the 21st Century Cures Act goal of empowering patients and improving patients’ access to their electronic health information, according to an April 4 announcement from federal health IT officials.

Last month at the HIMSS18 conference in Las Vegas, Seema Verma, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS Administrator, announced the launch of a new initiative called “MyHealthEData,” aimed at revolutionizing the relationship of U.S. healthcare consumers to their patient data.

CMS said in its announcement at the time, “MyHealthEData will help to break down the barriers that prevent patients from having electronic access and true control of their own health records from the device or application of their choice. Patients will be able to choose the provider that best meets their needs and then give that provider secure access to their data, leading to greater competition and reducing costs.” The federal agency added, ““The MyHealthEData initiative will work to make clear that patients deserve to not only electronically receive a copy of their entire health record, but also be able to share their data with whomever they want, making the patient the center of the healthcare system. Patients can use their information to actively seek out providers and services that meet their unique healthcare needs, have a better understanding of their overall health, prevent disease, and make more informed decisions about their care.”

Specifically, the ONC Guide to Getting and Using your Health Records will aim to inform patients and consumers about the value of health information, and provides individuals with clear, actionable advice on how to:

  • Get their health record, including offering tips through the process of accessing their records electronically,
  • Check their health record to make sure it is complete, correct, and up-to-date, and
  • Use their electronic health records (EHRs), such as sharing their records to better coordinate their care and using apps and other digital technologies to better manage and improve their health

A variety of health IT stakeholders have weighed in on the government’s patient empowerment initiative that was launched at HIMSS. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), for one, voiced its support for MyHealthEData but also stated that interoperability of EHRs is first required, and that for that to happen, system upgrades must be implemented on the part of vendors at no additional cost.

The ONC announcement noted that individuals’ ability to access and use their health information electronically “is a measure of interoperability and a cornerstone of ONC’s efforts to increase patient engagement, improve health outcomes, and advance person-centered health.” The federal health IT agency pointed to recent data that showed in 2017, half of Americans reported they were offered access to an online medical record by a provider or insurer. This is up from 42 percent in 2014. What’s more, half of individuals who were offered online access viewed their record with the past year.  Eight in 10 of the individuals who viewed their information rated their online medical records as both easy to understand and useful for monitoring their health, according to that brief.

“It’s important that patients and their caregivers have access to their own health information so they can make decisions about their care and treatments,” Don Rucker, M.D., national coordinator for health information technology, said in a statement today. “This guide will help answer some of the questions that patients may have when asking for their health information.”

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