"While there is still a lot of work to be done to overcome concerns about privacy, as more physicians adopt EHRs, their patients will have easier access to their health information. Most important, we need physicians and patients to start talking about how these tools can improve their communication and assist patients to be more in control of their own health," says Sam Carp, CHCF vice president of programs.
But busy doctors—or those who are reluctant adopters—need an incentive to do so. Partnerships will play a role in giving both docs and their patients a push toward embracing electronic health data, Blumenthal says.
"There's a shared responsibility across the government and the private sector. In a very direct and intimate way, physicians and nurses can help patients understand the value of EHRs," he says. "As in everything in our society, the private sector can't do it alone and the government can't do it alone."
Mark D. Smith, MD, MBA, CHCF president and CEO, agrees that physicians need that government push. "The more successful the current federal effort is to promote EHR adoption among physicians and other providers, the easier it will be for patients to access their health information from their most trusted source."
Online portals are one way providers are reaching out to help their patients become meaningful users. Sutter Health, a 24-hospital integrated system in Northern California, has an online portal that allows patients to send secure e-mails to their doctor's office about nonurgent health questions, view and chart test results, request a prescription renewal, view instructions from a recent doctor's visit, and request an appointment.