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The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has issued a brief reminding providers of patient’ rights to electronically view, download and transmit (VDT), their health information via application programming interfaces, or APIs.

ONC also is assessing the degree to which providers are complying with patients’ rights in other ways, such as accessing a patient portal. However, many hospital already are complying.

Since 2014, eligible hospitals have been required to provide patients with the capability to get their information, and in 2017 nearly all hospitals were providing the access, according to ONC.

Smaller hospitals, however, lag to some degree compared to mid-size and larger hospitals, particularly critical access hospitals which offer significantly less access compared to non-critical access facilities.

Nearly 40 percent of hospitals enable access using an app that connects to the electronic health record though an API. Two-thirds of reporting hospitals say less than a quarter of their patients are accessing via the patient portal.

Also See: VA to offer patient access to health data on iPhones

Overall in 2017, three-quarters of hospitals gave patients the ability to transmit their health information. Also that year, the capabilities most available to patients included family members or caregiver access on behalf of the patient (86%), pay bills online (82%) and request amendments to the health record (79%). Hospitals that provided the ability to submit patient generated data increased four-fold from 2013 to 2017.

Patients also are taking advantage of APIs and portals to request prescription refills electronically; a use that increased between 2015 and 2017 by 12 percentage points to 54 percent.

ONC notes that APIs can enhance patients’ access to their information and improve how they engage with providers. Consequently, starting in 2019, hospitals participating in the electronic health record incentive program, now called the Promoting Interoperability Program (PI), must provide patients with the ability to use a third-party app of their choice to electronically access their patient information.

Prior analysis reveals that 82 percent of hospitals have a vendor with products that meet the API criteria, according to ONC, which found that in 2017 38 percent of hospitals reported that patients can access their health information using an API.


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