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ONC study details electronic viewing and sharing of patient information

With meaningful use stage 2 deadline bearing down on providers, the use of EHRs is changing how patient information is viewed and transferred —  an issue that is explored in detail in a recent ONC study. Nearly one-third of physicians shared patient clinical summaries with other providers in 2011, according to the ONC study published in the American Journal of Managed Care. In that same year, the majority (55%) of 4,326 responding office-based American physicians had the capability to send prescriptions electronically.

“As Stage 2 of Meaningful Use moves forward, it will be important to continue monitoring physicians’ exchange capabilities and actual exchange activity to ensure that health information follows the patient wherever they go,” said Vaishali Patel, an ONC senior advisor and lead author of the study, in a release announcing the ONC’s study.

Providers who implement EHR systems often do so with incentive payments and patient engagement in mind. But a recent Xerox study revealed that many of today’s patients have been slow to embrace electronic records. The study, completed earlier this year, showed that only 32% of patients want their records converted to electronic forms, an increase of 6% from 2010. Comparing the two studies indicates there is a gap between patients and providers regarding the availability of electronic medical services. Only 19% of American adults have access to their online medical records.

Not all EHR systems can effectively communicate with one another, something that many in healthcare hope to change by encouraging interoperability. Some predict that the number of providers sharing patient information with other providers will increase only slowly in the next few years because of the lack of business incentives behind making that change. The fragmented nature of the healthcare system as a whole is another force holding interoperability back. Some HIPAA claims data, less complicated than EHR clinical data, took more than 15 years to become standardized.

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