Commonwealth Fund's Blumenthal on Patient Difficulties Accessing Medical Records

Friday, September 9, 2016

Commonwealth Fund's Blumenthal Quoted by NYT on Patient Difficulties Accessing Medical Record

The federal government has invested billions in helping to digitize medical records, but the process is still in its infancy, with data that is often nonstandard and hard to transfer between systems. And even as a growing number of medical professionals have made the transition to digital records, most of our medical histories exist only in the old world of paper, assuming they still exist at all. (Mrs. Clinton’s pediatrician is unlikely to still be alive, and records of Mrs. Clinton’s possible polio vaccination or childhood ear infections may be lost to history.)

“Average people encounter a huge amount of difficulty,” said David Blumenthal, a former national coordinator for health information technology for the Obama administration, now president of the Commonwealth Fund. He said he had heard countless stories of patients sent to the basement and asked to pay by the page for printouts of digital records.

Good luck reading those records when you get them: pages of lab readings, check-box answers, billing codes and illegible handwriting. Few patients can understand the records, and neither can many physicians. That’s why, even in the most wired of medical offices, receptionists still hand you a clipboard and ask you to write your medical history before the doctor will see you...

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