A recently released report by the Government Accountability Office offers an insightful review into the effectiveness of numerous attempts undertaken by the Department of Health and Human Services. It covers how these efforts have enhanced the accessibility to patients in the usage of electronic health information. Through the years, HHS has been working to provide patients with simple electronic access to health data, which is also useful in professional medical billing purposes.
The efforts of HHS to bolster the ability of patients in electronically accessing their health information along with the degree in which they access this are also thoroughly evaluated in the GAO report. The report also evaluated the actions undertaken by the providers in encouraging better patient access to the health information. Over the years, HHS has made a considerable investment in health information technology that amounts to over $35 billion. This included numerous efforts in bolstering the accessibility of patients to use their electronic health information.
The report states that many healthcare providers, which participated in the 2015 Medicare EHR program, have offered most of their patients the ability to access electronic health information. GAO identifies these provisions and means, which the providers have enabled their patients with all the information required, to view, download, and transfer their health information electronically. This includes a website address, logging instructions for accessing the site, as well as the username and password.
The data obtained from the same year, however, has given a different result. It showed that only a few patients used their data when given the facility to access them. GAO states that in 88 percent of the hospital patients that were given the ability to access their health information electronically, only 15 percent accessed this information. For non-hospital patients, only 30 percent accessed the data out of 87 percent that had the ability to do so.
The HHS’ Office of National Coordinator monitors the progress of the country toward increasing access to electronic patient information. However, GAO has pointed out a disadvantage of ONC in their measuring process. This includes the lack of development of any feedback mechanisms for assessing the effectiveness of ONC’s efforts. Due to this, there is a clear absence of information for HHS in determining the usefulness of their efforts for enhancing the accessibility of patients to electronic health information.
Furthermore, GAO has put forward a proposal for HHS in building up an effective feedback system for gathering and measuring data.