The Future of Accessing Your Health Data

Accessing Data Today

Printed out and stored away in a drawer in my house, I have paper copies of all the medical records for my family. From vaccination histories to my daughter’s height chart to prescriptions we’ve received over time, this drawer is the most accessible personal health record I’ve been able to find.

  1. First, patients must determine if there is a patient portal that they can use to access their health information. If there is a portal, the patient must log in and navigate to the appropriate area to retrieve their information. Often, that patient portal will lead to some but not all of their medical information (some of this is technically quite complex: what if the health system has multiple EHRs? What if you want access to imaging data? etc.). To get the rest of the information, the patient needs to fill out a medical release form and get the information in a different format.
  2. If there is not a patient portal, then the patient must determine how the provider would like them to request their record (by mail, in a digital format, etc.), and filling out the necessary medical record release forms. More often than not, patients get stuck here as they are not sure where to turn or what forms to complete.
  3. Once all required forms are properly completed and authorization from the patient is given, the responsibility turns to the provider to find the proper record. This could include logging into one or more of the internal sources of electronic health records to find the relevant records or even visiting the medical records department to retrieve a paper record. From there, patients may receive their records via email, on a CD, USB, fax, or in the mail.
Currently, hospitals and clinics contain essential information regarding their patient’s health. Often, providing patients access to their medical record requires a lot of manual effort as information is spread across multiple systems.

Accessing Data at the End of 2022

In 2016, the 21st Century Cures Act was signed into law. The overall goal of the 21st Century Cures Act was to put patients in charge of their health information and accelerate innovation in the healthcare industry.

Accessing Data in the Future

In the future, all electronic health data from providers should be readily available for patients and other providers to access easily. Ideally, patients would be able to click a button and receive their records instantly, and in a way that is understandable and actionable. This accessibility will move us to a world where healthcare data is not fragmented, but rather a patient (or their provider) can have a holistic view of their health even if they visited multiple providers at multiple locations.

  • Provide their complete medical record to a new provider rather than having to accurately remember and then verbally dictate what has been done before
  • Better understand and advocate for healthcare treatments by being able to quickly review their historical record
  • Send their medical records to additional physicians for second opinions
  • Gain a far more meaningful understanding of a patient’s prior medical history and treatment, including medication prescriptions, adverse events, and prior diagnoses
  • Coordinate care between themselves and other healthcare providers
  • Avoid duplicate procedures, imaging, and lab testing by understanding what has been done before.
This is a screenshot of Ciox’s Patient Request tool, offered to providers to streamline patient access. To date, more than 100 health systems have adopted this tool to help satisfy their requirements under the 21st Century Cures Act.



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