Most hospitals have an application programming interface for patients to keep track of their health information, but small and rural providers still haven't given patients full access to their data, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology on Wednesday.
In 2019, 7 in 10 hospitals reported using an application programming interface to allow inpatients to access health data—a 50% increase from 2018 that's largely attributed to financial incentives that started that year.
While 90% of these facilities allowed inpatients to download their health data, including clinical notes and medical records, 15% reportedly did not enable patients to transmit their data to a third party. CMS pushed hospitals to adopt the technology able to enable this function in 2014 through the Electronic Health Record Incentive program, but small, rural and critical-access hospitals are still behind the curve.
Small hospitals were 16% less likely to allow inpatients to transmit health records to another facility than a medium-large hospital and rural hospitals were 14% less likely to enable this function than suburban or urban hospitals. Critical-access hospitals, which are rural facilities designated by CMS for having 25 or fewer acute beds, were 18% less likely to allow inpatients to transmit their records electronically.
In small, rural, and critical-access hospitals are reportedly less able to provide inpatients with an API or electronic portal for viewing and downloading health information.
Access to health information for outpatients is also heavily based on hospital resources. Facilities that integrated one electronic health record system across outpatient sites enabled patients to download, send, and view health information 20% more than hospitals with different electronic systems. This was also true for accessing health information through APIs and allowing outpatients to electronically view clinical notes.
One reason for this disparity is a lack of technical knowledge or technological impairments associated with under-resourced hospitals. But, many hospitals that do have the resources struggle to connect patients with their health data because providers do not fulfill their electronic requests, according to the ONC brief.