Charging patients for access to copies of their medical records is widespread, contends a survey published by the American Health Information Management Association.
Advocates of converting to electronic records hope they will democratize patient access to their own data. But the survey responses appear to throw cold water on that expectation.
The survey found that 87.5% of respondents' organizations had an electronic record system and 52.6% of respondents charge patients for access to electronic copies of their medical records, with fees varying from a flat fee to per-page fees. Also, 64.7% charge patients for paper copies of their records; 65% of that group charge less than $1 a page.
The survey, conducted by Kim Murphy-Abdouch of Texas State University, reached 313 executives in a variety of healthcare settings, including acute care, integrated delivery systems, ambulatory surgery centers and home health.
The charges “would appear to be inconsistent with HIPAA and HITECH requirements that patients may only be charged a 'reasonable cost-based fee' for copies of their medical records,” Murphy-Abdouch notes.
Advocates say patient access to their records can help correct errors in those records, and also allow patients to switch providers more readily. Indeed, some say that providers' reluctance, or inflated charges, to provide access to records may stem from a fear of losing patients.
The government's meaningful-use program will likely spur patient access to their data. The second stage of the meaningful-use program requires that 50% of patients be able to access their data, and that 5% of patients actually use it. But Murphy-Abdouch's survey corroborates perceptions that providers, generally, are not necessarily living up to those requirements.
Some of the providers in the sample are likely not eligible for the meaningful-use program, but only 33.2% have a patient Web portal, the typical route to access patient data. Of organizations that do have patient portals, 48% of respondents fall under the 5% usage hurdle for the second stage of meaningful use.
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