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article imageWhy medical records access needs to be digital: Interview Special

By Tim Sandle     Oct 22, 2017 in Health
A new study, by Ambra Health, found 1 in 3 patients in ther U.S. cannot easily access their medical records. This impacts on how patients interact with health technology, like the iWatch. To find out more, we spoke with Ambra's Morris Panner.
Although progress has been made in the U.S. with electronic health records, the survey revealed that 57 percent of patients do not have easy access to any records whatsoever. The Ambra Health research has looked at over 1000 patients and the topic of access to medical records and the current healthcare system. For those patients with electronic records, many have problems in accessing these.
Accessing health records in digital form is part of the paradigm of interconencted health, and fits with the services offered by many e-health provders. To discuss the tiopic in detail, Digital Journal spoke with Morris Panner, CEO of Ambra Health.
Morris Panner  CEO Ambra Health
Morris Panner, CEO Ambra Health
Morris Panner
Digital Journal: Thank you for the interview Morris. How is the world of healthcare technology changing?
Morris Panner: Technology and especially advances in Artificial Intelligence are having a profound impact on the delivery of care. At the same time the relationship between healthcare provider and patient is also undergoing a transition. We’re now seeing empowered patients as consumers who expect their healthcare providers to engage with them as other consumer businesses would - digitally. The 21st century healthcare consumer is already comfortable using their smartphone or computer to access services and now they’re making decisions on their care based on how well practices and hospitals are using these digital tools to meet their needs.
DJ: With healthcare records, what are the types of concerns that medical professionals and parents express?
Panner: When it comes to medical records, the biggest concerns we hear are about privacy and security. However, in the US, the use and privacy of medical records are governed by HIPAA regulations. Many patients in the U.S. lack a complete picture of their medical record history largely because records are stored and maintained with multiple providers. My company Ambra Health, recently conducted a study that found that 31 percent of healthcare consumers still can’t access their medical records online and an overwhelming 73 percent of healthcare consumers indicated they would like all their medical data to be accessible online.
DJ: Why else is it important that patients have access to their medical records?
Panner: Increasingly patients are taking a more active role in the management of their health. If they would like a second opinion on their condition, or to see a specialist, having access to their medical records including lab tests and medical imaging is critical.
DJ: With this, is having these records in digital form important?
Panner: Digital access to medical records is not only important for the timely delivery of care, it’s a cost-saver for healthcare providers. Let’s look at medical images for example. Transferring medical images from radiology to a specialist is still often done by CDs. If a patient wanted access to those images, they would likely have to fill out or fax time-consuming paperwork to receive a CD. This process is expensive and time consuming for both the patient and provider. Digital access to image-enabled medical records radically improves this process.
DJ: What were the findings of the Ambra Health survey?
Panner: The Ambra Health study explored patient preferences and expectations in an era of digital transformation. We’re starting to see major players such as Apple, Amazon and Google move into healthcare, yet our study found the industry lagging on technology with nearly one in three patients reporting they can not easily access their medical records.
When it comes to moving diagnostic data like xray, CT and MRI from one provider to another, 57 percent still use CDs, and it takes 44% of patients a day or more to move these medical images. These findings show a clear gap in the expectations of today’s empowered patient versus the services being offered by healthcare providers.
Regarding virtual care adoption, there is a significant age gap as 34 percent of 18-34 year olds reported receiving virtual care today but only 3 percent among those aged 55 plus.
DJ: How did you ensure the survey was representative?
Panner: The survey was conducted online by Toluna Group among 1,136 U.S. respondents over the age of 18 who have received medical imaging services. This sampling enables us to survey a population who has engaged with their healthcare provider.
DJ: What technological solutions are there to address concerns and the survey findings?
Panner: There are many technological solutions. Forward-thinking providers should be working on increasing their digital presence and creating more comprehensive self-service patient experiences online such as scheduling and virtual care. Another recommendation is for providers to take a page from Netflix or Amazon and offer family share options with easy online access for the management of medical records. Most fundamentally, providers store, manage and share medical records and images in a digital format rather than relying on outdated CDs.
In today’s online world it seems no service is a sure-bet when it comes to security. The Healthcare industry, however, is held accountable to the absolute highest standards of data security. Healthcare technology vendors build solutions based on these standards, ensuring the utmost security parameters.
DJ: Are there certain areas of the U.S. that are pioneering medical record access and others that are less inclined?
Panner: We’re seeing medical record access improve in pockets all across the U.S. We are starting to see leading institutions innovate to deliver complete health records to patients digitally. Once the patient has access to the digital record, the patient can share the record as they see fit. In some ways, it is threatening to the institution - after all, it gives the patient control over where they take their information -- but it also creates an empowered patient, who is more likely to have better outcomes as they engage more deeply in their care.
DJ: Does the medical community take the access seriously?
Panner: Absolutely, however given the regulatory framework and safeguards for data in place to protect healthcare consumers, technology adoption in healthcare has been slower. In many ways, it is institution by institution as innovators step forward and guide progress. Many hospitals and health systems are addressing the problem by appointing Chief Information and Chief Innovation Officers specifically tasked with modernizing procedures for a digital age. Change is coming, it’s just taking longer than most of us would like.
DJ: With patients, is there a demographic difference in relation to the expectation of health record access?
Panner: Yes, our research found that the younger the patient is, the more relevant accessing medical records becomes. 80 percent of respondents aged 18-34 cited ease of medical record access and scheduling as a key consideration, while only 52 percent of those age 55 plus indicated this as a key consideration.
A somewhat surprising finding of the Ambra study was that Millennials are better at keeping detailed notes of their medical history than any other age group of respondents. When asked what they kept records of when managing their personal or family’s health, Millennials responded that they kept blood test results, diagnostic imaging, physician notes, prescriptions and vaccine records at an average rate of 65%, compared to only an average of 40% of Boomers.
DJ: What other areas of technology are of interest to you?
Panner: When I welcome new classes of employees at Ambra Health, I always have a chance to reflect on what has changed during the past year, since the last class started. Technology change is a constant. In terms of sectors, in the U.S., the three areas that are most in need of reform are government, education and healthcare. I keep a close eye on developments in all three of these areas. In terms of tech, there is probably no more interesting area than blockchain technology and its implications for sharing information securely. As we think about our next generation of product enhancements, these types of developments are always top of mind.
Ambra Health is a medical data and image management cloud software company.
More about Health records, digital health, health care technology, Ambra Health
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