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HHS Strategy Aims to Improve Patient Access to Health Information

The HHS Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2022-2026 focuses on improving payer, provider, and patient access to health information.

The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2022-2026 aligns with the 2020-2025 Federal Health IT Strategic Plan and focuses on improving patient access to health information, according to a HealthITBuzz blog post written by ONC official Lisa-Nicole Sarnowski.

HHS released the strategic plan earlier this week.

“We look forward to advancing the Plan, including the strategies to improve the access, exchange, and use of electronic health information for patients, providers, payers, and other health and healthcare stakeholders,” Sarnowski wrote.

Patient access to personal health information, such as lab results, physician notes, and diagnosis information, has grown significantly in recent years.  

A recent ONC data brief found that 97 percent of hospitals allow patients to view their health data using a patient portal.

“This is tremendous growth from a decade ago when only a quarter of hospitals offered that capability,” Sarnowski pointed out.

Another 70 percent of inpatient hospitals reported enabling patient data access using a mobile device or other software applications.

“Our work in support of the HHS Strategic Plan will build on this progress as we continue to connect healthcare with health data through interoperable health IT,” she continued. “Here at ONC, we’re committed to supporting patients’ ability to securely access and manage their health information when and where they need it.”

“The beauty of the availability of electronic health information comes in the ways it can help simplify our lives — quicker access to information saves time and improves our overall care experience, as patients spend less time worrying about unanswered questions and more time actively engaged in their health,” the ONC official wrote.

According to an ONC report, nearly 40 percent of individuals accessed a patient portal in 2020, a 13 percent increase since 2014.

The same data brief found that 85 percent of smartphone users who had downloaded a health app used that app at least once in the last year.

“Encouraging and empowering patients to understand their overall health profile enables them to take steps to improve it,” Sarnowski said. “ONC looks forward to advancing the goals of the HHS Strategic Plan and building on the progress being made toward a more interoperable and secure health system that works for all so that patients can continue to play a more active role in their health and healthcare.”

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