Though the proportion of hospitals enabling patients to access health information using applications increased by more than 50% between 2018 and 2019, independent, rural and critical access hospitals still lagged behind their counterparts, according to a new government report.
Released by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, the report assessed the proportion of U.S. hospitals that enabled patients to electronically access their health information. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services required all hospitals to share this data via an application programming interface using an app of the patient’s choice beginning in 2019.
That year, 70% of hospitals enabled inpatients to get their health information using an app, a 50% jump from the year prior. There was also a more than 30% spike in the hospitals that allowed inpatients to view clinical notes from 2018 to 2019.
Overall, about 73% of hospitals enabled inpatients to electronically view, download and transmit health information using a portal in 2019, a huge jump from 10% in 2013. Similarly, the proportion of hospitals allowing patients to transmit health data to a third party rose from about 12% in 2013 to 75% in 2019.
But small, rural, independent and critical access hospitals were not able to keep up with their counterparts.
About two in three of these hospitals enabled inpatients to access their health information using mobile or software apps in 2019 versus around three in four large, urban and system-affiliated hospitals.
Further, only 66% of rural hospitals enabled patients to transmit their health information to a third party, compared with 80% of suburban-urban hospitals. A similar difference is found between independent and system-affiliated hospitals — 61% among the former allowed patients to transmit health data versus 82% among the latter.
“This indicates that gaps in access may be due to hospital resources, technical knowledge, and other technology issues unrelated to the capabilities of certified EHRs,” the report states.
On the other hand, there was little difference between patients being provided access to health information via apps in inpatient versus outpatient care settings. In fact, 70% of hospitals allowed this access across inpatient settings compared with 73% across outpatient facilities.
These trends acquire added significance now that the Department of Health and Human Services has implemented its historic interoperability and information blocking rules, part of the 21st Century Cures Act.
The price tag for violating the rules, which include ensuring patients have electronic access to their health data, could be hefty — up to $1 million per violation for health IT developers and health information networks/exchanges.
Though there are no proposed penalties for healthcare providers as yet, HHS is expected to implement an “appropriate disincentive,” healthcare lawyers previously told MedCity News.
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