Patient EHR requests require quick turnaround by practices

June 15, 2011

When patients request copies of their electronic health records from your practice, the clock starts ticking. This Q&A gives you the new information on the minimum information required and how quickly you must provide it. Also find out why you soon may have to inform patients when their health information is viewed.

When patients request copies of their electronic health records (EHR) from your practice, the clock starts ticking.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently came out with new guidance on the minimum information required when your practice receives a request and how quickly you must respond.

It may seem straightforward, but, as with anything related to an EHR, the issue also provides some challenging twists-what, for instance, counts as providing an electronic copy of a health record?

Here’s what CMS has to say about how small- to medium-sized practices can meet meaningful use objectives when providing patient records:

Q: As a physician, what information must I provide to meet the meaningful use objective to “provide patients with an electronic copy of their health information?”

A: Physician offices must provide at least the patient’s problem list, their diagnostic test results, and lists of prescribed medications and any known drug allergies within 3 days of a request. Ideally, the physician would provide in an electronic format all the information that the patient requests that can be accessed from the certified EHR technology used by the practice.

Q: If a patient sees several eligible professionals in a practice, how are the numerator and denominator calculated for the objective to “provide patients with an electronic copy of their health information?”

A: If the patient requests the information from a specific eligible professional, then the practice should count the patient in that provider’s numerator and denominator. If the patient makes a general request of the practice’s administrative staff, then the patient should be included in the numerator and denominator of all the eligible providers with whom the patient has had an office visit. 

In a related announcement, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a proposed change to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Privacy Rule. The new rule would enable patients to receive an access report showing who has electronically accessed their health information. Currently, practices must track who has accessed patient’s protected health information, but they have not previously had to provide these reports to others.

 HHS is accepting comments through August 1.

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