Electronic medical records (EMRs) have become indispensable in modern healthcare. EMRs consolidate patient health information like medical history, medications, test results, procedures and more into digital formats accessible by authorized medical providers.
Enabling patient access to EMRs allows patients to view their comprehensive records in one place. This supports patients becoming more informed and engaged in managing their healthcare. However, concerns around privacy, security, and health literacy have sparked debate around patient EMR access.
This guide examines the key benefits and risks for patients accessing their EMRs. It also provides steps patients can take to access their records and better participate in their care.
Electronic health records (EHRs) are digital versions of patient health information from multiple medical providers. EHRs bring together patient data into consolidated electronic medical records (EMRs) accessible to appropriate healthcare providers.
The goal of EHR systems is to make complete and accurate patient information available securely to all relevant providers. This is intended to enable coordinated, high quality care and improve patient outcomes.
EHR systems allow key capabilities like e-prescribing, clinical decision support, patient portal access, and population health management tools. They aim to reduce medical errors, boost organization, and engage patients.
There are many ways EHR systems and the EMRs they contain enhance patient care and outcomes:
|Complete Medical History||Consolidates patient data into comprehensive records for providers|
|Care Coordination||Secure data sharing between providers enables care transitions|
|ePrescribing||Electronic transmission of prescriptions to pharmacies|
|Clinical Decision Support||Evidence-based care guidelines for providers|
|Preventive Care Reminders||Alerts for needed services per clinical guidelines|
|Streamlined Diagnostics||Electronic ordering for lab tests and imaging procedures|
|Timely Test Results||Results integrated directly into patient EMRs|
|Population Health Management||Tools to analyze care patterns across patient groups to identify gaps|
By enabling these capabilities, EHRs and EMRs aim to equip providers to deliver higher quality, better coordinated, more personalized care.
Under federal HIPAA law, patients have the right to access their EMRs containing their medical records from all healthcare providers. This includes access to electronic records.
Providers must accommodate requests for access within 30 days. Patients can request to inspect their EMRs or obtain copies in their preferred format. Reasonable fees apply only to paper copies.
While HIPAA grants basic access rights nationwide, some state laws further expand patient access to records. Patients should understand their comprehensive rights to their complete medical history contained within their EMRs.
Patients have several options to access their EMRs and personal health records:
When requesting records, be specific on which records you need and the format desired. Compile records from each provider for a complete medical history within your EMR. Follow up on any unreasonable delays or denials.
Enabling patient access to EMRs offers advantages like:
Despite the benefits, some concerns exist around patient EMR access:
These risks can be addressed through provider education of patients on their EMRs and responsible access. Appropriate safeguards must be in place.
Patients gain more control over their healthcare when they can access their EMRs containing their consolidated health records. To get started:
Persist through any obstacles to gain comprehensive EMR access. With your complete medical history available via your EMR, you can better partner in your healthcare.
Policies regulate medical provider access to patient EMRs to protect privacy. Only doctors directly involved in your current treatment can access your EMR without explicit consent. Doctors you have a past treatment relationship with still have access to that encounter's records but need consent for current access.
Those who are not involved in your care cannot access your EMR without written consent per HIPAA. They can only access your EMR for quality audits and population health improvements provided identifying information is removed. Stricter state laws may further limit provider EMR access. Patients can request an audit trail showing providers who accessed their EMR.
Ethical guidelines like obtaining informed consent and maintaining confidentiality also govern doctors’ appropriate access and use of EMRs. While coordinated care requires sharing some information, doctors should only access the minimum necessary records relevant to the patient's care.
Beyond your doctors, a limited set of parties can access your EMR:
|Party||Purpose of Access|
|Insurance providers||For claims processing and payment|
|Public health authorities and registries||For legally mandated reporting, like infectious diseases|
|Healthcare clearinghouses||For billing and transcribing records|
|EMR portal service providers||For storage and transmission of records|
|EMR-integrated apps||When authorized by patients for consolidated records access|
|Legally designated personal representatives||Like parents accessing records for a minor child|
|Government agencies||For permitted health oversight activities like audits and investigations|
Any access beyond doctors directly involved in your care requires proper patient consent under HIPAA unless a specific legal exemption exists. Strict access controls and audit logs should track all access. Patients have a right to an access report.
EMR storage and security practices can vary. Many providers use cloud platforms from certified EHR vendors that meet privacy and security regulations. Cloud storage enables secure access.
Other providers maintain localized servers to store EMR data which requires rigorous on-site security. Some health systems use hybrid models with cloud networking between physical storage locations.
Regardless of architecture, providers must implement safeguards like encryption, access controls, auditing, firewalls, and disaster recovery to secure EMRs and protect patient privacy according to HIPAA and HITECH rules.
Patients should ask providers about their specific EMR storage and security controls to ensure their data is properly safeguarded from inappropriate access or breaches.
EMR systems have the following security measures to protect patient's medical records:
Patients can help protect their EMR security by using unique complex passwords, protecting login credentials, reviewing access reports, and being alert to any misuse signs. However, ultimately providers are responsible for EMR protections compliant with regulations.
Patient access to EMRs empowers patients and promotes engagement, but requires balancing benefits with privacy risks. Patients have a right to access their records under HIPAA and can work with providers to safely leverage EMRs to participate in their care.
Upgrading from fragmented paper records to integrated EMRs supported better care coordination and outcomes - adding thoughtful patient involvement can further improve the promise of digital healthcare.
After reading this guide, you likely recognize the benefits of transitioning to comprehensive electronic medical records for your practice and enabling secure patient access. However, selecting the right EMR system can be challenging.
Calysta EMR makes it easy for providers to adopt a fully featured, patient-centric EMR solution. Calysta offers powerful clinical tools to enhance care quality and coordination while empowering patients with transparent record access and engagement features.
If you are ready to upgrade your patient records management, request a demo of Calysta EMR today. Our team is happy to give you a tailored walkthrough of the platform and answer any questions you may have.