Greater portal use gives patients access, doctors headaches


Making patient records portable

Nearly 40% of portal users accessed it using a smartphone app (17%) or with both their smartphone app and their computer (22%). Sixty-one percent of users relied exclusively on computers to access their portals.

About a third of patient portal users downloaded their online medical records in 2020. This proportion has nearly doubled from 17% since 2017, the ONC report noted.

Although the survey didn’t ask about multiple downloads, it appears that most people had to download their records separately from the patient portal of each practitioner who cared for them. Although the Apple Health app allows people to download records to their iPhones from multiple portals using a standard application programming interface, the ONC report says that only 5% of respondents transmitted their records to a service or app, up slightly from 3% in 2017.

Dr. Waldren hopes most patients will have the ability to download and integrate records from multiple practitioners in a few years, but he wouldn’t bet on it.

“A fair amount of work needs to be done on the business side and on figuring out how the data get connected together,” he said. “And there are still privacy concerns with apps.”

Overall, 21% of portal users transmitted their data to at least one outside party in 2020, compared with 14% in 2017. Seventeen percent of them sent their records to another health care practitioner, up from 10% in 2017. Five percent of the users transmitted their records to a caregiver, slightly more than in 2017.

Managing data is a challenge

Asked how physicians feel about portal users adding information to their record or correcting inaccurate information, Dr. Waldren says, “Doctors are already comfortable with patient-generated data. The challenge is managing it. If the patient provides data that’s not easy to put in the EHR, that’s going to add work, and they don’t want to see 100 blood pressure readings.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find a doctor who doesn’t welcome additional information about the patient’s health, but it can be onerous and can take time to enter the data,” Dr. Waldren said.

Overall, he said, “Giving patients the ability to take more ownership of their health and participate in their own care is good and can help us move forward. How this will be integrated into patient care is another question.”

A version of this article first appeared on Medscape.com.


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