A recent report by the American Hospital Association showed that the usage rates of patient portals and access to digital health information has increased dramatically from just a few years ago. The data underscores the growing ability for Health IT vendors to provide high-quality devices and software as well as the expanding acceptance of these tools by patients and doctors.

This growing ubiquity is important for providers who are considering their current health IT status and looking for ways to remain competitive and supportive of patient’s needs. The growing use of these tools will also continue to demand better interoperability standards and connectivity initiatives.

Tremendous growth

The AHA focused on EHRs’ online capability and the ability to connect with providers in a recent report on the growth of digital solutions in healthcare. It was found that 2015 showed a promising level of expansion in each of these areas, and that these trends are likely to continue moving forward.

“92% of patients were able to view personal health records online.”

Of patients surveyed, 92 percent were able to view personal health records online. In 2013, that number was just 43 percent. According to Patient Engagement HIT, this improvement may be caused by the emphasis on patient portals in Meaningful Use, MACRA and other government programs. The AHA also stated that 84 percent of patients were able to download personal data. Two years prior, just 30 percent of individuals could do so. In a testament to growing interoperability, 70 percent of those surveyed were able to send personal health data to a third party such as a consulting physician or specialist. Only 13 percent of patients could do so in 2013.

The report also outlined other improvements in connectivity. There were increases in the number of scheduled in-person appointments and prescriptions filled online, with nearly half of all patients taking advantage of these tools.

Moving forward

Business Record reported that hospitals that employ digital solutions successfully earn praise and recognition. Likewise, it was found that industry stakeholders and experts believe that technology is delivering new efficiencies and capacities for clinical and operational endeavors.

Security is of utmost concern moving forward. According to the AHA report, there was an increase in the number of patients communication with providers digitally in place of a phone call or in-person visit. This is a helpful tool, but requires stringent privacy considerations to ensure confidentiality and reliable security. The interoperability of data can promote better, more universal security measures.

This is also true when patients share data with a doctor to encourage more accurate and consistent monitoring, and is especially helpful for individuals living with chronic conditions. The AHA stated that 37 percent of hospitals allowed patients to submit health data to an EHR. Like the ability to electronically communicate with a doctor, this represents new opportunities for tracking and engagement but will demand stringent security measures and standardization among providers. In this way, a patient can access an EHR, share it with a specialist and update it conveniently at home without compromising security or reliability.