GAO finds further proof patients are fed up with portals, EHRs

Just one-third of patients offered visibility into their health data took advantage of it, according to a recent report, which offers recommendations for improving patient access.
By Mike Miliard
04:19 PM
patients don't like EHR portals

Despite the fact that close to 90 percent of providers participating in meaningful use offer their patients online access, only about one-third of patients actually log in to see their data, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

On the GAO's WatchBlog, the agency explored some of the reasons for that. Part of it has to do with the confusion of keeping tabs on separate portals for different providers, officials said.

"Patients often receive access to a different portal for each provider they visit, and must manage separate login information for each one," according to GAO. "The patients we interviewed were frustrated with the amount of time and effort it took to set up these portals, understand each portal’s user interface, and manage all the different passwords."

[Also: GAO official: VA must improve clinician productivity tracking]

And despite providers' efforts to offer access to information about labs, meds, allergies and more, many patients say the "information available to them was incomplete and inconsistent across providers, and were unclear about whether it could be electronically downloaded, transmitted, or aggregated in one place."

Those patients who did use online portals said they liked being able to communicate with their physicians, schedule appointments online, refill medications and share their own data with other providers.

But more needs to be done to encourage active patient engagement with their health records, said GAO officials, who this earlier this year issued a pair of recommendations to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

First, HHS should direct the Office of the National Coordinator to develop performance measures to track its efforts related to patients' access to longitudinal health data.

"Such actions may include, for example, determining whether the number of providers that participate in these initiatives have higher rates of patient access to electronic health information," according to the report.

Second, ONC should use that information to tailor its patient engagement efforts as needed – for instance, "assessing the status of program operations or identifying areas that need improvement in order to help achieve program goals related to increasing patients' ability to access their health information electronically."

Of course, given the steep budget reductions ONC could soon be facing, it remains to be seen whether those recommendations will gain traction.

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
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