ONC shares human-centered design tips to streamline patient medical record requests

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT outlined several actionable steps that hospitals and doctors can take today to improve the process of requesting medical data to the benefit of both patients and providers.
By Bill Siwicki
12:55 PM
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ONC medical record requests

Donald Rucker, MD, head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT

Despite more medical data being stored in EHRs than ever before, patients and caregivers still are struggling to access that information when and how they need it.

“I don’t think patients would say they have free access to the data,” Donald Rucker, MD, head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT said in a press call on Tuesday. “It’s patchy, and I think we can do better with today’s computer science.”

To that end, ONC called for human-centered design methods to improve the process.

[Also: SMS: The digital health tool of the century]

“Human-centered design is a way of involving end users in developing and improving products,” ONC explained in the new guide “Improving the Health Records Request Process for Patients: Insights from User Experience Research.”

The multi-disciplinary HCD methodology draws from cognitive psychology, ethnography and interaction design, ONC noted.

Practicing HCD to create a more transparent electronic health records request system begins with building a foundation for enabling patients to request and receive records via a patient portal as well as establishing a system for requesting records outside of the portal and, ONC suggested, doing both in plain language instructions about how to make such requests and what to expect when doing so.

With the foundation in place, hospitals should deploy e-verification technology to authenticate the identity of patients making any data requests, and ONC recommended including a progress tracker so those users can easily tell that their request has been received and when to expect delivery.

It’s also important to make clear the various format options consumers have when requesting records, whether those are PDF or CD, and that they can be sent to either a personal e-mail address or to another care provider.

Finally, ONC urged hospitals not to overlook the need to entice patients to actually use the portal and data request tools by selling them on the upsides, including the online appointment scheduling, medication refills and secure messaging features.

“Whether you’re a provider, hospital staff, an innovator or a patient, everyone can work together to create a better experience for patients,” wrote Lana Moriarty, director of the office of consumer ehealth, office of programs and engagement, at the ONC, on the Health IT Buzz blog. “Patients and health systems have the same goal – to get the patient their medical records.”

Healthcare IT News Editor-in-Chief Tom Sullivan contributed to this article. 

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer: bill.siwicki@himssmedia.com


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