Research shows that when people have access their medical records, they are better able to manage their health. But being able to see the detailed clinical visit notes in your medical record has often been a challenge. That should become easier when the 21st Century Cures Act Final Rule takes effect on April 5, 2021.
The Cures Act is intended to make it easier for people to be able to see their medical records, as well as the costs of the medical care. The Cures Act calls for a person’s health data, including health care provider notes from office visits, to be available securely on a computer or a cell phone through mobile applications (such as patient portals). The Cures Act also calls for this information to be free to patients.
The privacy and safety of personal health information are big concerns as it becomes easier for patients to access their medical records. The Cures Act requires that the data security methods used for patient access be the same as those used for banking and travel information. And decisions about sharing health information can only be made by the patient.
Even with the Cures Act, it’s important to know that certain information still might not be available for patients or their caregivers. For example, if a health care provider feels that releasing specific information could cause harm to the patient or another person, that information may be blocked. This may also be done to protect the privacy of the patient.
Technology limits might also prevent some information in the medical record from being available. Still, patients should have easier and faster access to key information such as clinical visit notes, test results, and medication lists. And going forward, more information should be added as technology improves.
Many health care providers are already giving access to parts of medical records through patient portals. Talk to your health care provider to find out how you can gain access to your medical records and what you can expect to be able to see. If you don’t yet have access, ask when you will.
The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. ONC’s Cures Act Final Rule. Healthit.gov. Accessed at https://www.healthit.gov/curesrule/ on February 26, 2021.
Walker J, Leveille S, Bell S, et al. OpenNotes After 7 Years: Patient Experiences With Ongoing Access to Their Clinicians' Outpatient Visit Notes. J Med Internet Res. 2019 May 6;21(5):e13876. doi: 10.2196/13876.
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