New research gauges impact of electronic health information being immediately released to patients

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A new study evaluating the 21st Century Cures Act has found that while both clinicians and patients value transparency, the immediate release of patient electronic health information (EHI), such as test results, is debatable among clinicians.

The study, published in The American Journal of Surgery, sought to understand patient and clinician attitudes toward the immediate release of electronic health information. Researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus engaged 57 patients and 69 clinicians representing distinct specialties at a single academic medical center to complete a survey.

The study’s results found that 89.7 percent of patients and 80.6 percent of clinicians agreed or strongly agreed that providing patients with access to their health information is necessary in delivering high-quality care.

However, 62.7 percent of clinicians agreed that results released immediately would be more confusing than helpful, whereas only 15.8 percent of patients agreed with this statement. According to the study, providers were also more likely to disagree that patients are comfortable independently interpreting blood work results, radiology results, and pathology reports.

In addition, 75.1 percent of patients felt their provider should contact them within 24 hours of abnormal results, whereas only nine percent of clinicians agreed with this timeframe.  

According to the study, the discrepancy between patient and clinician perceptions highlights the importance of setting expectations around patient care and the communication of results. Additionally, the research emphasizes the need to implement strategies to help improve patient comprehension, decrease patient distress, and improve clinician workflows.

The 21st Century Cures Act, signed into law in 2016 and implemented in 2021, was designed to give patients and their healthcare providers secure access to health information, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. In addition, the rule includes a provision requiring that patients can electronically access all their electronic health information (EHI), structured and/or unstructured, at no cost.