By Linda Kloss

It’s a typical weekday for me working from home and stopping to get a few things cleared off my “to do” list.  It’s 2:30 in the afternoon and I have already used 10 apps:  I read my digital newspapers, did online banking, scheduled service on the car, ordered dog food, scheduled an annual dermatology appointment, booked a flight, hotel, and airport transportation, figured out a route from the airport to my hotel, and downloaded a book for next month’s book club.  You get it; this is now a typical day for most connected consumers.  Not long ago, we would have driven to the bank, dog food store, bookstore or library, called the travel agent, auto mechanic, and so on.   Apps have transformed how we get things done.

Now, many consumers use an app to access their medical records, downloading to a mobile device for their own use and to share as they see fit with providers, other caregivers and family.  Release of information, long a back office processing function, is becoming an app-enabled, consumer-driven service.  This transformation is largely driven by consumers.  When so many parts of our life are supported by apps, consumers are not satisfied with having to contact various hospitals and provider offices, complete forms, wait for paper or CD and pay a fee to gain access to their own information. 

Federal emphasis on interoperable EHRs brought the issue of barriers to access to information for patients to the forefront.  Fees were identified as a barrier, and in 2016 the Office for Civil Rights addressed this with its patient access guidance.  The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) extended the focus on patient access by including functionality in its EHR certification criteria, directly supporting standards-based application programming Interfaces (APIs) and apps, and promoting access through public education.  Patient access is one of six key planks in implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act designed to unlock the power of digital health information. 

Consumer demand, supported by federal policy will transform release of information to an app-enabled function and I believe that this will happen very quickly.  I base this prediction on the experiences of health systems that enable web access for patients and authorized third parties.  Adoption and update has been swift and overwhelmingly positive.  

You can learn from NewYork-Presbyterian’s Susan Tabickman about this world renowned health system’s use of Verisma’s API-based app for release of information in a free webinar on October 30!  Registration information follows.   

There are inherent privacy and security risks for apps involving confidential patient data.  Access and disclosure of patient information also requires hardened compliance protocols.  Trusted release of information app developers must meet a high bar;  a developer must have the requisite technical and standards know how, but must also have compliance, data protection, and accuracy in its DNA.  

Against this background, CIOs and HIM professionals should proactively advance access transformation on four fronts:

1.  Transition from fragmented to standardized and centralized disclosure management across the health system.  This requires adoption of enterprise release of information management software and best practices.

2.  Add an app linking EHR and the enterprise release of information software so information can be requested and disclosed via web portal.

3.  Design and implement policies and processes to protect the consumers’ right of access with appropriate privacy and security protections for an app-enabled patient access environment.

4.  Develop an implementation plan that includes consumer and staff outreach and education.

I can’t yet access my EHR via app, but when I can, you can be sure I will keep my medical record securely on my password protected phone.  The days of taking notes, requesting and storing paper reports, and trying to recall when I last did this or that will be over.  The timing is right and It just makes sense.

Use this link to register for the free webinar on October 30 at 2-3 pm EDT: