Evidence is mounting that giving patients access to EHRs improves their accuracy and can improve the doctor-patient relationship. Research continues to show that the patient portal is an integral part of any practitioner’s system as they work to improve patient care.
As far back as 2003, researchers at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center were looking at the effects of promoting patient access to medical records. Despite the fact that it was a new experience, many patients were interested in reading their records, and some found errors that were subsequently corrected.
The study also found statistically significant benefits to doctor-patient communication: obstetric patients who were given access to their records were nearly one and a half times more likely to say they found it easier to talk to their doctors and midwives.
More recently, a study published by eGEMS found that patients can improve their medical records’ accuracy if effectively engaged using a networked personal health record. The importance of this cannot be overstated, given recent studies showing medication-list omission rates between 27% for ambulatory oncology patients and 53% for primary care patients.
“Electronic platforms, such as personal health records and patient portals, that allow patients to view their records, submit and receive comments, and request changes increase the ease, speed, and potentially the frequency of this process,” write the eGEMS study authors.
The data from the report makes the need for patient access to medical records abundantly clear. Just under 90% of patients who submitted forms as part of the study conducted at two Geisinger clinics requested changes to their medication lists. Some suggested an update to dosage frequency; others wanted to change a type of drug. A pharmacist reviewed each change request and followed up with the patient before changing the medication list. In a sub-review of 107 forms, the pharmacist responded positively to 68% of the requests.
Importantly, a few patients stopped taking medications that could have harmed their health as a result of reviewing their medication lists and adding over-the-counter medications. One patient reported taking B-12 vitamins on the form and received a call from his provider to stop taking the vitamins to prevent overdose, since he was receiving post-surgery B-12 injections.
Also of note is the fact that pharmacists had initial reservations about the accuracy of patient feedback but found that most patients (including those taking 20-plus medications) accurately documented each medication without errors.
Similar to the 2003 study, the medication feedback from improved patient engagement, communication, and information sharing. Physicians may also benefit from streamlined workflow, with one physician saying he spends less time reconciling medication with patients who complete and bring a printed copy of the form to their visits.
Finally, the authors note that usage data from the two pilot sites indicate that, on average, 30% of patients at each site are active users of MyGeisinger, an online portal. They suggest that for the patient feedback process to work, an environment that encourages and supports online consumer interaction, such as a patient portal, is necessary.
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