New law requires health care organizations give patients access to their records digitally

Reporter: Veronica Marshall Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
online medical records
Credit: WINK News

A new federal law goes into effect Monday requiring health care organizations to give patients access to their own records online. WINK News explains how this impacts you and why not every company was on board immediately.

Cancer caught Dave DeBronkart by surprise. “They took a shoulder X-ray and said, Dude, what’s that extra thing in your lung? And it turns out, it was a tumor of kidney cancer growing near my shoulder,” DeBronkart said.

After that, he made sure there were no more surprises in his health care, and he says it saved his life.

“Most people in my condition didn’t survive. And I did. So I’m a huge fan of people being actively involved in their health care,” said DeBronkart.

And now, it’s even easier for patients to get involved. As of Monday, every health care organization in the country has to give patients fast and free electronic access to their health records.

Dr. Catherine DesRoches is the executive director of OpenNotes and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

“Things like consultation reports, lab reports, if you had an MRI, the report from the radiologist is going to be available. So it’s just a big expansion and what you can see from your own medical record,” said Dr. DesRoches.

Lee Health patients can already access all of their files.

Neurologist William Carracino says that involving patients also helps them catch mistakes.

“Sometimes the patients would correct me and I would say, ‘Listen, correct me once or twice. If you have to correct me more than once, I didn’t listen, we have to start over,” said Dr. Carracino. “It’s clear that people who are involved in their own health have better health.”

“If you want to help healthcare achieve its potential to save the life of yourself, or somebody in your family, by all means, get involved,” DeBronkart said.

“The easiest way to start getting involved is to look at what’s in your record. And now with this new rule with Open Notes, they have to give it to you,” said DeBronkart.

This new rule is part of the 21st Century Cures Act, can also make health care easier for snowbirds. Experts say with this information at your fingertips, you can easily share it no matter where you are.

You also have the ability to share these documents with loved ones who help you make health care decisions.

“If you get care from North Dakota, and you also get care in Florida, you can use your phone, you can use an app on your phone to pull all that data together. So you essentially have all of your records in one place. And that I think is going to be kind of a game-changer for patients,” said Dr. Catherine DesRoches.

“It’s very valuable, particularly for people who are not kind of digitally savvy, or they’re not comfortable using a computer, or that the person who helps them with their care lives far away, can’t come to visit can’t come to appointments with them. It’s a way to help that person stay informed about what’s going on,” she said.

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