Over half of American patients are offered access to their online medical health records, but many do not take advantage of the data’s demonstrated benefits, according to an April 2018 Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT survey.

The Department of Health and Human Services recently announced an initiative to improve those numbers through the launch of an online “Guide to Getting and Using Your Health Records.”

“It’s important that patients and their caregivers have access to their own health information so they can make decisions about their care and treatments,” said Don Rucker, national coordinator for health information technology, in a news release on the site’s launch. “This guide will help answer some of the questions that patients may have when asking for their health information.”

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act legally gives patients the right to access their own health records, a right the HHS site encourages individuals to exercise.

The site takes users through three steps for taking advantage of their legal right to records access: “Get It,” “Check It” and “Use It.”

Under “Get It,” patients are encouraged to start with their healthcare provider’s online patient portal or check with their provider directly to get access to their data. The site then encourages users to check the records to make sure the information is complete and accurate and use the information to advocate for and manage their own healthcare.

According to the ONC survey, eight in 10 patients who did access their medical records found them useful for their health and easy to understand.

According to the new release, the site also supports the goals of the White House Office of American Innovation-led MyHealthEData initiative, designed to empower U.S. patients with control over their medical data.

Jessie Bur covered the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees for Federal Times.

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