Are Your Employees in the Dark About Their Health Information?

Posted July 13, 2016

In an age where technology provides a near-instant connection to all kinds of information, it’s still not easy for many people to quickly access their medical records. By 2013, almost 80% of office-based health care providers were using electronic health record (EHR) and electronic medical record (EMR) systems. But sharing these electronic records with patients in a convenient format has a long way to go, according to a March 2016 survey from HealthMine, a health care technology company.

HealthMine’s survey of 500 consumers enrolled in health plans in 2016 found a large majority (74%) are convinced having easy electronic access to their medical data would help them by increasing knowledge about their health status and improving communication with their providers, too.

Digital access can simplify keeping track of medical history and test results, as well as prescription medications and dosages. In addition, readily accessible electronic records can expedite coordinated care when a person has multiple health care providers. But patient portals and online networks have to be in place and easy to connect with to be helpful — and 32% of the HealthMine survey participants indicated they were unable to review their medical records when they needed them.

In fact, more than half of the survey participants said they were unable to connect to their health data at all on their computer. However, among those who had easy access to their medical records, 80% noted the information was helpful — and they actively used it.

Other findings from the HealthMine survey:

• Twenty-nine percent of those surveyed had difficulty accessing their lab records.

• Twenty-nine percent experienced problems accessing their insurance information.

• Sixty percent of those queried didn’t know if their complete health data was stored electronically.

• Twenty-five percent of survey participants reported difficulty accessing their prescription drug history.

“We should be long beyond the days where 1 doctor holds the chart and we don’t get to see it, but we’re not,” said Bryce Williams, CEO and President of HealthMine.

Quick and convenient access to health information should be tied to workplace wellness programs and be personalized, customizable and digital, according to Williams. But he noted that’s too often not the case.

“Our view is that a majority of wellness programs today aren’t lifting their own weight,” he said.

Employees need readily available information about their health status to chart their progress in an exercise or a weight-loss program, Williams pointed out. However, results of HealthMine’s research showed many workers participating in wellness programs don’t have access to even basic biometric information (such as blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, as well as body mass index).

“Sitting in the driver’s seat of health requires transparency of health data,” Williams said. “Consumers must be able to see the road, the potholes and the landmarks. Having access to complete health information is essential to managing health and health care dollars — and every consumer should have it.”

In addition to making health records easy to access, the idea that patients should be able to see all their health information is gaining ground. The OpenNotes project, based at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, is a national initiative working to ensure patients can see the notes their health care providers take during office visits.

“Our research shows increasingly that patients can benefit greatly from reading the notes taken during a medical visit,” said Jan Walker, RN, co-founder of OpenNotes and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “They tell us they feel more in control of their care and are more likely to follow up on recommendations. This has enormous implications for improving the quality and costs of care.” — Sherry Baker