Fast Access to Health Data as a Patient Right

The next stage of meaningful-use standards for electronic health records should allow patients to almost immediately retrieve information from their medical records, the Society for Participatory Medicine says in comments submitted this week to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Urging CMS to adopt the mantra “nothing about me without me,” the Newburyport, Mass.-based patient-rights group also argues for automated functions that would allow patients to more easily access their health information.

“The manual steps required in many [personal health record] environments are in part responsible for the limited adoption of these potentially valuable tools,” the group says in a letter to CMS Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. “It is also worth noting that security and privacy are significantly enhanced using a separate access path for the patient's automated agents so that the patient is not forced to share his or her password with the agent.”

But immediate access to patient information is the group’s top priority. Patients should be able to see that information as soon as it’s available in the EHR, according to the letter, signed by Dr. Danny Sands, the group’s president, and David Harlow, chairman of the public policy committee.

“The regulation should be revised to provide that the only permissible delay is that requested by the patient,” the group says. “This is technically feasible, and we believe it is the only way that engaged patients can participate in finding errors in their records and seek timely help from advocates and second opinions in situations where we all need it most.”

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