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New Rule Gives Patients More Timely Access to Medical Records

From William Carracino, M.D., Vice President of Medical Information at Lee Health

With increased and enhanced digital capabilities, patients and health care providers have been requesting expanded and more timely access to medical records. To create a common set of standards for sharing this electronic health information, the federal government recently published the Interoperability and Information Blocking Final Rule as required by the 21st Century Cures Act. 

The CURES Act is a federal mandate that was created to prevent the blocking of electronic health information between health systems, apps and devices. It went into effect on April 5 and will require healthcare providers to immediately release lab and imaging results and provider notes through a patient’s MyChart portal for inpatient and ambulatory patients. Provider organizations who are non-compliant following the April 5 effective date will be subject to penalties.

With this new rule, results for labs (except HIV), radiology and pathology, and all provider notes (except psychotherapy notes) will be available to patients and their designated proxies who have an active MyChart account. While patients will have access to their information right away, it is important to note that patients may see a test result before their health care provider has had the opportunity to review and interpret, and therefore, at the start could lead to some confusion and frustration from physicians and patients alike.

At Lee Health, we have been in compliance with this rule since November 2, 2020. As a health system, we recognize the changes as positive opportunities to increase patients’ engagement in their care and improve their understanding of – and their compliance with – treatment regimens. Additionally, having data more readily available to patients can empower them to make better-informed decisions, leading to better outcomes and improved patient satisfaction.

Of course, in today’s digital world there is always a concern about the privacy and security of sharing personal information. At Lee Health, keeping patient health information private and secure is a top priority. The MyChart application is fully compliant with federal and state laws pertaining to patient privacy and it uses the latest encryption technology with no caching to automatically encrypt a patient’s session with MyChart. And unlike conventional email, all messaging is done while the patient is securely logged on to the Lee Health website.

As the largest healthcare provider in Lee County, Lee Health is committed to providing safe, high quality, compassionate care to our patients. This groundbreaking mandate will not only change the way health care professionals talk to patients about information, but shift the way they connect patients to their health information. Being well informed, enables patients to participate in their care and can lead to improved health outcomes and enhanced quality of life.