Survey: Patients access to medical records critical to high-quality healthcare

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

In the era of digital health, patients have very high expectations for medical information sharing, but they may not be aware of the healthcare industry’s current limitations. That’s according to a new digital health survey released today by Transcend Insights, a population health management company. The survey found that a vast majority of patients (97%) believe it is important for any health institution, regardless of type or location, to have access to their full medical history in order to receive high-quality care.

Patients were also asked to rate factors that are most important to receiving personalized care. Top priorities for patients included having access to their own medical records (92%) and the ability for care providers to easily share and receive important information about their medical history—wherever they needed treatment (93%).

Are these demands being met? The survey suggests that there could be a significant gap between the level of information sharing that patients expect and what is possible today. While the healthcare industry has undergone rapid digitization in the last decade, effectively sharing medical information and communicating across many different healthcare information technology systems—often referred to as interoperability—has remained elusive.

According to a recent interoperability study conducted by the American Hospital Association, only a quarter of all hospitals are able to functionally exchange (find, send, receive and use) clinical information with external providers. Another study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that only 34.8% of specialists receive information about a patient from their referring primary care physician (PCP), even when the PCP attempts to share patient records. In other words, data is not traveling with patients despite the importance that they place on open access to their information.

“As an industry, the time has come to move beyond viewing interoperability as a philosophical challenge or a problem that we’ll eventually get our arms around,” said Thomas J. Van Gilder, M.D., JD, MPH, chief medical officer and vice president of Informatics and Analytics at Transcend Insights. “This survey shows us that patients see strong information sharing as an essential element of high-quality care. It’s time that we live up to those expectations by giving care providers and healthcare systems the tools they need to stay connected around patient care.”

The Transcend Insights survey also suggests that patients may be giving the benefit of the doubt to their care providers when it comes to data sharing and the ability of their medical records to travel with them. When respondents were asked whether or not their doctors could easily share and access important information about their medical history—whenever or wherever they needed care—72% of patients believed that this is in fact happening. Unfortunately, due to ongoing setbacks in connecting the sprawling healthcare system, this type of open access to records is rare.

Other Key Findings from the Survey Include:

  • A majority of patients (64%) say that they use a digital device (including mobile apps) to manage their health and 71% believe it would be helpful for their doctor to have access to this information as part of their medical history.
  • Patients are more likely to completely trust the healthcare they receive from any medical professional when he or she has access to their full medical history (38% versus 27%).
  • A majority of patients surveyed believed that provider access to their full medical history is important to receiving high-quality care with 87% of respondents indicating that PCP access, in particular, is extremely or very important to receiving high-quality care.


To gather these and other insights, Transcend Insights conducted an online survey among U.S. adults who have seen a doctor within the past year. Fieldwork was conducted by Research Now between January 20 and January 26, 2017. A total of 2,597 responses to the survey were collected. Respondents are nationally representative of U.S. Census statistics for age, gender and geographic region. Oversamples were done for patients with chronic health conditions and consumers on Medicare health plans.

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