According to a 2015 national survey by the National Center for Health Statistics, 95 percent of New Mexico’s office-based physicians have adopted electronic health and medical records systems — a rate almost 10 percent higher than the national average.
New Mexico physicians have excelled in maintaining a certified system of electronic records under the criteria defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Electronic records kept on the systems include patient history and demographics, patient problem lists, physicians’ clinical notes, comprehensive lists of patients’ medications and allergies, and computerized orders for prescriptions. The system also allows doctors to view laboratory and imaging results electronically.
Yet, according to HealthIT.gov, an information technology service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, all patients should consider establishing and maintaining their own electronic personal health records.
For one thing, personal health records offered by entities covered by the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, such as family physicians, hospitals and insurers, generally do not allow access to all of the electronic health information they maintain; nor do they allow access to the information by family members.
By establishing and maintaining an electronic personal health record, you can easily access your health information and control who has access to it.
This might include a spouse, family member or caregiver who would not be otherwise be allowed to access your medical information without a signed medical release.
A number of free web-based applications are available for managing your personal health records.
I signed up for Microsoft HealthVault, WebMD Health Manager and CareZone.
Each of these application websites were designed well and included accessibility features for individuals with disabilities.
The applications were easy to use and provided fields for recording medications, uploading medical records and updating lifestyle choices such as daily alcohol use, diet, exercise and sleeping habits.
HIPAA-covered entities must provide individuals with certain personal health information, such as a medical or billing record, but many times this information comes in the form of a scanned image that cannot be read by a screen reader.
Individuals with limited vision or people who are blind may need alternative text along with the scanned images, explaining the contents of each image. They also can request records in a more accessible format.
Under the personal health records and HIPAA privacy rule, an individual is entitled to their health information within 30 days of a request in the form and format that they request it.
Researchers have found that by having access to personal health care information, patients take more responsibility for their own health.
Providers and patients who share access to electronic health information can collaborate in informed decision making, which is especially important in managing and treating chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes and obesity, according to the HealthIT.gov website.
Personal electronic health records provide easy access to immunization records, lab results, medical procedures and health screening due dates.
The Department of Health and Human Services recently announced two winners of an electronic solutions competition designed to help consumers share personal health data easily and securely on smart devices using mobile apps.
“The final winners in the Move Health Data Forward challenge show us that electronic health information can truly be owned by patients and their family members,” said Don Rucker, M.D., national coordinator for health information technology, in a news release on from the federal agency in May.
The winning applications, which received $50,000, were Foxhall Wythe LLC’s Docket, a secure system for users to seamlessly store and share their health data, and Live and Leave Well LLC, which provides services on end-of-life plans.
Andy Winnegar has spent his career in rehabilitation and is based in Santa Fe as a training associate for the Southwest ADA Center. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.