Patient access to medical records could get easier

Initiative would allow electronic health records

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - The Trump administration wants to make it easier for Americans to access their medical records.

The MyHealthEData initiative, which will be led by the White House Office of American Innovation, aims to allow patients to obtain electronic versions of their medical records from all of their providers, regardless of whether they are in the same physician practice or hospital system.

Some 78 percent of doctors and 96 percent of hospitals use electronic health records. Still, gaining access to them has long been a challenge in the U.S. partly because it's in the providers' financial interest to keep a tight hold on patient information.

Consumers may have to go from doctor to doctor to get copies of their records, and they may not be able to obtain their complete files, said Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is also involved in the effort.

"When providers don't have timely patient information readily available, tests are repeated, and we are paying for unnecessary treatments," she said at a health information technology conference Tuesday. "All this drives up costs and puts patient safety and quality of care at risk."

CMS is upgrading its Blue Button program, which provides traditional Medicare enrollees with claims data. The overhaul will allow developers to build apps that will let beneficiaries access their information. Currently, senior citizens can only obtain their data by downloading PDF files.

The agency will also make it clear to insurers who participate in Medicare Advantage and the Obamacare exchanges that it expects them to release their data to patients, Verma said.

CMS said it will require all providers to update their systems so they are able to give patients their records in a secure format. And the agency will specify what information -- ideally in an electronic format -- that hospitals must share with patients when they are discharged.

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