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New rule gives patients access to all of their medical records and notes

Kimberly Adams Apr 5, 2021
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The rule prevents “information blocking” by health care providers, but it may take time for some providers to roll out the changes. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

New rule gives patients access to all of their medical records and notes

Kimberly Adams Apr 5, 2021
Heard on:
The rule prevents “information blocking” by health care providers, but it may take time for some providers to roll out the changes. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Here’s a rare thing these days — a health care story that is not about the pandemic.

A new federal rule took effect Monday giving patients more access to their medical records — for free.

Many patient records are already electronic, but it can be a hassle to get them. The new rule opens the door to major changes in access to health information.

The rule makes it illegal for health care providers to engage in “information blocking,” making it too hard for patients to get their records. Fines are up to $1 million.

Liz Salmi, senior strategist for the group OpenNotes, which advocates for transparency in medical records, said if it weren’t for the pandemic, “this concept of full transparency to everything in the record — the notes, the labs, pathology reports — would be the biggest story in health care.”

As of Monday, patients should have started being able to access all of that information and share it with health care providers, schools and workplaces, even third-party smartphone apps.

Dr. Rachele Hendricks-Sturrup, health lead at the Future of Privacy Forum, said once you get your records, “you, the patient, have control over where your health information goes. Then it pretty much becomes a Wild West.”

Because not all those apps or schools or even companies face the same privacy rules as traditional medical providers. Also, right now, many of those providers aren’t ready to roll out all of the changes.

“There’s a lot of confusion. The legal requirements are complex and interfaces with third parties in data-use agreements,” said Dr. Jesse Ehrenfeld, with the American Medical Association.

Not the kind of stuff they normally cover in med school.

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