Access to Health Data Opens Up More Communications

Michele Warg
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The implementation of the Affordable Care Act has caused many changes to the American health care system over the past few years. One major change is the enactment of a new rule by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that gives all Americans unrestricted access to their personal health information via electronic medical records. These records provide many benefits to both patients and health care providers.

Patient Benefits

Access to personal health care records is greatly beneficial to patients in many ways. Direct, unrestricted access to personal medical history makes it easier for people to manage their own medical care and make more informed decisions regarding their treatment. A more informed patient is more likely to become an active participant in their treatment plan and cooperate with doctors. A 2007 study published in Lab Medicine found that people would be more satisfied with the health care system overall if they were given greater access to their medical data.

Physician Benefits

In the past, patients' health care records have been kept in a highly secured location at their primary care provider's office. Now, it is becoming more common for a single patient to see multiple doctors for different conditions, which makes the old system inefficient, since many doctors' offices don't have interconnected records systems. Because of this, doctors have to rely more and more on their patients to provide accurate medical history information.

With better access to individual health care records, doctors can treat patients more effectively. Given the ability to retrieve more accurate, up-to-the-minute information, doctors can view patient medical histories and create more customized and effective treatment programs. They can avoid issues such as potentially dangerous drug interactions without having to rely on patient memory. Monitoring the health of patients who see multiple doctors will be much more streamlined and simple.

Insurance Benefits

Increased access to electronic health care records even has some benefits for insurance providers. When doctors are able to monitor and access personal medical records more readily, they are less likely to prescribe unnecessary drugs or medications that are incompatible with patients' existing prescriptions. This leads to fewer harmful drug interactions, complications and medical emergencies, which in turn leads to fewer medical insurance claims. In the long run, these improvements can lead to lower insurance premiums, both increasing the efficiency of the health care system and giving a boost to the economy.

Direct patient access to health care records gives people a sense of empowerment and responsibility, allowing them to become more engaged in their own health care and make more informed choices. This translates to greater and more effective communication with doctors and other medical professionals. Industry experts agree that this new access to health care information is greatly overdue, and will continue to improve medical practices and communications.

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