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Despite vast improvements in the management of patient data thanks to the advent of electronic health records, too many people still have a hard time getting access to their own healthcare information, according to the Government Accountability Office. Under the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), this presents a problem for consumers and providers alike. HIPAA mandates that patients be able to receive a copy of their own medical records, with providers being able to charge “reasonable” cost-based fees when patients request copies from them either personally or in conjunction with a third party (eg, an insurer or lawyer). The GAO has found, however, that fees for third-party requests are often higher than the fees charged to patients directly, which some patients claim are prohibitively high to begin with. All in all, according to the GAO, this adds up to inhibiting patient access to the records, thereby adversely affecting access to their medical records. From the provider’s perspective, it should be noted that the wealth of information available thanks to EHRs makes for deeper, more complex records that require more time to produce—and, therefore, more expensive to generate. The GAO did not suggest any solutions to the challenges it highlighted in the report.

Patient Still Have Difficulty Accessing Their Own Medical Records
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