AHIMA17: 82% of consumers accessed their records through patient portals

Less than 5 percent of consumers had accessed their electronic health record (EHR) through a patient portal in 2013. By 2016, that number had skyrocketed to 82 percent, according to a survey released at the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) conference in Los Angeles.

Responses to the survey were received from 167 people enrolled in a campus-based and online College of Health Professions course, alumni of the bachelor of science in health information management at the researchers’ university, members of a local AHIMA professional chapter, and friends and family of the researchers. The study admitted “this type of nonrandom sampling limits the generalizability of study conclusions.” Respondents were also predominantly female (83 percent), white (66.5 percent), and many had more than 15 years of healthcare experience (44.3 percent).

Among this population, patient portal use appeared higher than in other studies. While others have gone as far as to declare portals “dead” due to patients not accessing them, 82 percent of the respondents said they had accessed their portal, using it for viewing lab results (35 percent), requesting medication renewal (19 percent), requesting appointments (22 percent), secure messaging (19 percent), and other results (5 percent). Among those using portals, most were satisfied (38 percent) or very satisfied (53 percent).

“Providing individuals with access to their health information is necessary in delivering high-quality care,” said Kim Murphy-Abdouch, MPH, associate professor of health information management at Texas State University and lead author of the study. “With the age of technology, healthcare providers and health information management professionals must adapt to accommodate the increase in demand for PHI (protected health information), both electronic and paper.”

Paper records were still being kept and requested, though electronic use had increased substantially since 2013. Of the 57 percent of respondents who went through the release of information process to request their records, 44 percent got them on paper, compared to 48 percent who received them electronically.

Consumers generally weren’t denied release of their records once they requested them, with an 88 percent approval rate among respondents. Only 10 percent said they were charged by their provider for their request, down from 65 percent in 2013. Most patients (54 percent) received their records in one to 15 days.

“Although we have seen a dramatic improvement in patient engagement with their PHI, there is always room for improvement,” said AHIMA’s interim CEO, Pamela Lane, MS. “Health information management professionals have an obligation to continue to assist patients and others in accessing and maintaining their own personal health record.”

The report concluded with a warning about HIM professionals needing to emphasize security and privacy as more patients access their records, particularly as the “internet of things” reaches into practices and hospitals.