FAQs
FAQs

The Frequently Asked Questions listed below are some of the most commonly asked questions surrounding Health IT.  For a more extensive list of questions, visit the healthit.gov website or click here for an abbreviated version of the Patients and Families FAQs [PDF]

Also, a Glossary of Common Health IT Terms surrounding Electronic Health Records [PDF] (EHRs) can be found here

Health IT and Electronic Health Records (EHRs)

What is health information technology?

Health information technology (IT) is the use of computer hardware and software to privately and securely store, retrieve, and share patient health and medical information.

What is an electronic health record (EHR)?

An electronic health record (EHR) is more than just a computerized version of your paper chart. It’s a digital record of your health information that can provide your health care team with comprehensive health information about you. Over time, it can allow your providers to share important information, across different health care settings, while maintaining EHR patient confidentiality in accordance with federal and state privacy and security requirements.

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/what-electronic-health-record-ehr#ixzz1X80r6CVl

A personal health record, or PHR, is an electronic application through which patients can maintain and manage their health information (and that of others for whom they are authorized) in a private, secure, and confidential environment.
For information about PHRs and the HIPAA Privacy Rule, please view the HHS Office for Civil Rights’ guidance on this topic.

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/what-personal-health-record#ixzz1X81BmTrG

What is the importance of a personal health record (PHR)?

A personal health record (PHR) is one tool that can be used to increase patient participation and improve families’ engagement with their care. PHRs are collections of information pertinent to patients’ health, but they differ from EHRs in that they are typically set up and accessed by patients themselves.

A patient can log on to his own record and see the trend of the lab results over the last year, which can help motivate him or her to take medications and keep up with the lifestyle changes that have led to improved health.

How will adopting electronic health records (EHR) improve providers’ business goals?

Adopting electronic health records (EHR) will help health care providers build a sustainable medical practice. The next generation of health care professionals will expect and demand that their own medical facility have a state-of-the-art information system. Becoming a meaningful user of electronic health records will allow providers who are building their practices to recruit and retain talented young clinicians.

Electronic health records will also help improve the safety and quality of health care for your patients. The meaningful use of electronic health records will help health care providers and hospitals offer higher quality and safer care.

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/how-will-adopting-electronic-health-records-ehr-improve-providers%E2%80%99-business-g#ixzz1X81GosHd

What is a patient portal?

A patient portal is an internet application that allows patients to access their electronic health records and permits two-way communication between patients and their healthcare providers.

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/what-patient-portal#ixzz1X81LX0vc

How will adopting electronic health records (EHR) improve providers’ business goals?

Adopting electronic health records (EHR) will help health care providers build a sustainable medical practice. The next generation of health care professionals will expect and demand that their own medical facility have a state-of-the-art information system. Becoming a meaningful user of electronic health records will allow providers who are building their practices to recruit and retain talented young clinicians.
Electronic health records will also help improve the safety and quality of health care for your patients. The meaningful use of electronic health records will help health care providers and hospitals offer higher quality and safer care.

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/how-will-adopting-electronic-health-records-ehr-improve-providers%E2%80%99-business-g#ixzz1X81TPhV5

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/what-importance-personal-health-record-phr#ixzz1X80zOdeI

Are there different types of personal health records (PHRs)?

Yes, there are two kinds of personal health records:
1. There are standalone PHRs where patients fill in the information from their own records and memories and the data is stored on patients’ computers or on the Internet.
2. There are tethered or connected PHRs which are linked to a specific health care organization’s EHR system or to a health plan’s information system. The patient accesses the information through a secure portal.

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/are-there-different-types-personal-health-records-phrs#ixzz1X7zxa9KI

What is electronic prescribing?

With electronic prescribing, or e-prescribing, your doctor enters information about drugs you may need into a computer. This electronic prescription is sent over a secure network to the pharmacy you choose. The pharmacy receives the prescription and can begin filling it right away.

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/what-electronic-prescribing#ixzz1X7zrJqh8

How will adopting electronic health records (EHR) improve providers’ ability to service their patients?

By adopting electronic health records in a meaningful way, providers and hospitals can:

  • See the whole picture. All of a patient's health information—medical history, diagnoses, medications, lab and test results—is in one place. Providers don't have to settle for a snapshot when they can have the entire album.
  • Coordinate care. Providers involved in a patient's care can access, enter, and share information in an electronic health record.
  • Make better decisions. With more comprehensive health information at their fingertips, providers can make better testing, diagnostic, and treatment decisions.
  • Save time and money. Providers who have implemented electronic health records say they spend less time searching for paper charts, transcribing, calling labs or pharmacies, reporting, and fixing coding errors.

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/how-will-adopting-electronic-health-records-ehr-improve-providers%E2%80%99-ability-se#ixzz1X806ZVyO

Are there different types of personal health records (PHRs)?

Yes, there are two kinds of personal health records:
1. There are standalone PHRs where patients fill in the information from their own records and memories and the data is stored on patients’ computers or on the Internet.
2. There are tethered or connected PHRs which are linked to a specific health care organization’s EHR system or to a health plan’s information system. The patient accesses the information through a secure portal.

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/are-there-different-types-personal-health-records-phrs#ixzz1X80D71qo

What are the advantages of electronic health records, sometimes called electronic medical records?

There are many advantages of electronic health records. Electronic health records (EHRs) help health care providers better manage patient care by:

  • Getting accurate and complete information about their patient’s health
  • Better coordinating the care they give to their patients and families
  • Securely sharing information with patients electronically about their personal health record
  • Accessing information to help diagnose patients, reducing medical errors, and providing safer care at lower costs

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/what-are-advantages-electronic-health-records-sometimes-called-electronic-med#ixzz1X80QJ4la

What information does an electronic health record (EHR) contain?

An electronic health record (EHR) contains patient health information, such as:

  • Medical history
  • Diagnoses
  • Medications
  • Immunization dates
  • Allergies
  • Radiology images
  • Lab and test results

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/what-information-does-electronic-health-record-ehr-contain#ixzz1X80Wm400

What is the difference between a Personal Health Record, and an Electronic Health Record, and an Electronic Medical Record?

An Electronic Medical Record (EMR) is a digital version of the paper charts in a doctor’s office. They contain primarily the notes and information collected by and for the clinicians in that office.

An Electronic Health Record (EHR) is built to share information with other health care providers, such as laboratories and specialists. They contain information from all the clinicians involved in the patient’s care and authorized clinicians can access the information they need, to provide care to that patient.

A Personal Health Record (PHR) contains the same types of information as a electronic health record—diagnoses, medications, immunizations, family medical history, and contact information for providers—but it is designed to be set up and accessed by patients themselves.

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/what-difference-between-personal-health-record-and-electronic-health-record-a#ixzz1X80dB8XL

 

Health Information Exchange

What is a health information exchange?

Health information exchanges (HIEs) facilitate the secure exchange of health information within and across states. Sharing information in this way is one of the requirements of meaningful use. ONC has made 56 awards totally $548 million to help states and territories in the US develop secure health information exchanges.

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/what-health-information-exchange#ixzz1X829VFL6

A list of states that have approved HIE strategic plans can be found at http://statehieresources.org/contacts.
(The states with a red asterisk [*] next to their names have approved plans.)
For more information about ONC’s State HIE Program, visit http://healthit.hhs.gov/statehie.

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/which-states-have-approved-health-information-exchange-hie-plans#ixzz1X82GQgU4

 

Implementing EHRs

How can health IT help doctors share information with patients?

Health IT and Electronic health records (EHRs) can help you provide patients with access to their health information, improve care coordination, and provide higher quality and safer care for your patients.

EHRs are designed to allow appropriate information sharing beyond the health care provider who first collects the information. An EHR is built to share information with your patients and with other providers, such as labs and specialists. It can contain information from all the providers involved in a patient’s care, or it can link through secure information networks to information held in other providers’ EHR systems. And, as health information exchange capabilities advance further, the information can move with the patient—to the specialist, the hospital, the nursing home, the next state, or even across the country.

Research suggests, however, that patients have a limited understanding of EHRs. As a provider, it is important for you to engage your patients in a conversation about health information technology, and about EHRs in particular, to answer their questions.
You can also talk to your patients about how personal health records (PHR) can help them share their information and manage their medical care.

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/how-can-health-it-help-doctors-share-information-patients#ixzz1X82k3EwX

Are there penalties for providers who don’t switch to electronic health records (EHR)?

If Medicare eligible professionals, or EPs, do not adopt and successfully demonstrate meaningful use of a certified EHR technology by 2015, the EP’s Medicare physician fee schedule amount for covered professional services will be adjusted down by 1% each year. The adjustment schedule is as follows:

  • 2015—99% of Medicare physician fee schedule covered amount
  • 2016—98 % of Medicare physician fee schedule covered amount
  • 2017 and each subsequent year—97% of Medicare physician fee schedule covered amount

If less than 75% of EPs have become meaningful users of EHRs by 2018, the adjustment will change by 1% point each year to a maximum of 5%(95% of Medicare covered amount).

The Recovery Act allows for hardship exception from the payment adjustment in certain instances. The exemption must be renewed each year and will not be given for more than 5 years. More information on payment adjustments and the requirements to qualify for a hardship exemption will be provided in future rulemaking between now and the 2015 effective date.

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/are-there-penalties-providers-who-don%E2%80%99t-switch-electronic-health-records-ehr#ixzz1X82skWfE

What will happen if Medicare and Medicaid Eligible Professionals don’t switch to electronic health records (EHR)?

The Recovery Act allows for adjustments to the Medicare physician fee schedule for Medicare providers who do not adopt and successfully demonstrate meaningful use of a certified EHR by 2015.

No payment adjustments are planned for Medicaid providers. However, Medicaid providers who also treat Medicare patients will have a payment adjustment to Medicare reimbursements starting in 2015 if they do not successfully demonstrate meaningful use. Providers who are not eligible for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs will not be subject to any payment adjustments.

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/what-will-happen-if-medicare-and-medicaid-eligible-professionals-don%E2%80%99t-switch#ixzz1X82zlcBY

 

Health IT Workforce and Training

Does ONC offer any training in Health IT or EHR training?

ONC’s Community College Consortia Program established non-degree health IT training programs at 82 member colleges across the country. The programs, which can be completed in six months or less, are designed for professionals with an IT or health care background.

ONC also established the University-Based Training Program, which offers post-graduate certificate and master’s degree programs in health IT.

Contact the college or university in your region for more information on courses, enrollment, distance learning, and financial aid.

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/does-onc-offer-any-training-health-it-or-ehr-training#ixzz1X83qztJH

If no community colleges in my area offer health IT training programs, how can I get Health IT training? 

Contact one of the 82 member community colleges across the country about distance learning opportunities for health IT training programs.  For more information, visit the Community College Consortia Program.

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/if-no-community-colleges-my-area-offer-health-it-training-programs-how-can-i-#ixzz1X844yvGG

I am interested in a career in health IT. Where can I learn more about health IT jobs?

The Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) has developed a Health IT job board. This website offers ONC graduates the opportunity to post their resumes and search for jobs that will match their emerging skill set. Potential employers can access a database of qualified employees who have graduated from the workforce development and certification programs.

If you are a student in the Community College Consortia Program, don’t forget to contact the career center at your college for more information.

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/i-am-interested-career-health-it-where-can-i-learn-more-about-health-it-jobs#ixzz1X84B1v6w

Privacy and Security

What do I need to do if the privacy of my health information has been violated?

If you believe that a covered entity or business associate violated your health information privacy rights or committed another violation of the HIPAA Privacy or Security Rule, you have the right to file a complaint with your provider, health insurer, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The easiest way to file a complaint is to go through the HHS Office for Civil Rights.

If you have questions about privacy, security, or HIPAA, visit the OCR privacy website. You can also search OCR’s HIPAA FAQ database.

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/what-do-i-need-do-if-privacy-my-health-information-has-been-violated#ixzz1X85GSVxQ

How can I access my health information/medical record?

Ask your doctor or other health care providers for access to your health information. The HIPAA Privacy Rule gives you, with few exceptions, the right to inspect, review, and receive a copy of your medical records and billing records that are held by health plans and health care providers covered by the Privacy Rule.

A provider cannot deny you a copy of your records because you have not paid for the services you have received. If you request an electronic copy of protected health information, a covered entity is required to provide you with such electronic copy to the extent it is readily producible. Covered entities are permitted to charge reasonable, cost-based fees that cover the cost of copying (including supplies and labor) to provide you with a copy of your protected health information. They cannot, however, charge you a fee for searching for or retrieving your records.

For more information about the HIPAA privacy rule, visit the HHS Office for Civil Rights.

Learn more about the Privacy and Your Health Information, your Health Information Privacy Rights, and the Right of Access.

Also, you may have additional rights under state law. You can view a report about state medical record access laws at.

Additionally, more and more people are using personal health records (PHRsS) to manage their health information and become full partners in the quest for good health. PHRs are different from EHRs. Information in an EHR is typically entered by and accessed by health care providers. A PHR is a record controlled by the individual and may include health information from a variety of sources, including multiple health care providers and the patients themselves.

Electronic PHRs are increasingly being offered to patients through health plans, health care providers, employers, and independent vendors. These tools offer a wide variety of features for obtaining, storing, and understanding health information.

There are two kinds of PHRs:

  • Standalone PHRs let patients fill in the information from their own records and memories. The data is stored on the patients’ computers or on the internet. Patients can decide whether to share the information with providers, family members, or anyone else involved in their care. In some cases, information can be downloaded from other sources into the PHR.
  • Tethered, Connected PHRs are linked to a specific health care organization’ s EHR system or a health plan’s information system. The patient accesses the information through a secure portal. Typically, patients can view information such as lab results, immunization history or due dates for certain screenings. When a PHR is connected to the patient’s legal medical record it is protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) Privacy Rule.

The legal protections surrounding PHRs may be different depending on who offers the PHR. For example, PHRs offered by your provider organization or health plan may still be protected by HIPAA. However, web-based PHRs or chat boards offered directly by an entity that does not provide health care may not be covered by HIPAA. You should know that information stored on these PHRs may not receive the same privacy and security protections that HIPAA grants to a patient.

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/how-can-i-access-my-health-informationmedical-record#ixzz1X85NZ8i0

Who can look at, receive and share my health information or medical record?

The HIPAA Privacy Rule sets rules and limits on who can look at and receive your protected health information, or information that relates to your health or health care you have received and can also be used to identify you. Your health information may be used and shared with doctors and hospitals; with family, relatives, friends, or others you specify; with the police in special cases such as gunshot wounds; and with government agencies that report on the incidence of various illnesses.

Your health care provider and health plan must give you a notice that tells you how they may use and share your health information and how you can exercise your health privacy rights. In most cases, you should get this notice on your first visit to a provider or in the mail from your health insurer, and you can ask for a copy at any time. The provider or health plan cannot use or disclose information in a way that is not consistent with their notice.

Unless HIPAA explicitly allows for the use or disclosure of your protected health information (similar to the situations as noted above), your PHI cannot be used or shared without your written permission. For example, without your authorization, your provider generally cannot give your information to your employer, use or share your information for marketing or advertising purposes, or share private notes about your health care.
Learn more about how your provider and health plan are to be open and transparen t. about how they handle your health information.

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/who-can-look-receive-and-share-my-health-information-or-medical-record#ixzz1X85T89NS

Can I keep my own personal health records (PHR)?

More and more people are using personal health records (PHRS) to manage their health information and become full partners in the quest for good health. PHRs are different from EHRs. Information in an EHR is typically entered by and accessed by health care providers. A PHR is a record controlled by the individual and may include health information from a variety of sources, including multiple health care providers and the patients themselves.

Electronic PHRs are increasingly being offered to patients through health plans, health care providers, employers, and independent vendors. These tools offer a wide variety of features for obtaining, storing, and understanding health information.

There are two kinds of PHRS:

1. Standalone PHRs let patients fill in the information from their own records and memories. The data is stored on the patients’ computers or on the internet. Patients can decide whether to share the information with providers, family members, or anyone else involved in their care. In some cases, information can be downloaded from other sources into the PHR.

2. Tethered, Connected PHRs are linked to a specific health care organization’ s EHR system or a health plan’s information system. The patient accesses the information through a secure portal. Typically, patients can view information such as lab results, immunization history or due dates for certain screenings. When a PHR is connected to the patient’s legal medical record it is protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) Privacy Rule.

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/can-i-keep-my-own-personal-health-records-phr#ixzz1X85enZki

What security safeguards are designed to prevent electronic health records from being “hacked?”

The HIPAA Security Rule requires specific measures to safeguard your electronic protected health information to ensure its confidentiality, integrity, and security.
A few of the safety measures built in to EHR systems to protect your medical record may include:

1. “Access control” tools like passwords and PIN numbers, to limit access to patient information to authorized individuals, like the patient's doctors or nurses.

2. "Encrypting" stored information. That means health information cannot be read or understood except by someone who can “decrypt” it, using a special “key” made available only to authorized individuals.

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/what-security-safeguards-are-designed-prevent-electronic-health-records-being#ixzz1X85rOhsE

How is my health information or medical record protected by HIPAA?

Covered entities must protect the privacy of individuals’ health records. “Covered entities” include most health plans, most health care providers, and health care clearinghouses. Covered entities are required by law to follow HIPAA, and must:

  • Install safeguards to protect your health information.
  • Reasonably limit uses and disclosures to the minimum necessary to accomplish their intended purpose.
  • Have agreements in place with their contractors and others who perform functions or activities on behalf them. These agreements are to ensure that these contractors (referred to as "business associates") only use and disclose your health information properly and safeguard it appropriately.
  • Have procedures in place to limit who can view and access your health information as well as implement training programs for employees about how to protect your health information.

To learn more about how HIPAA protects your health information, visit the HHS Office for Civil Rights.

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/how-my-health-information-or-medical-record-protected-hipaa#ixzz1X869uNDM

What part of my health information is protected under HIPAA?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) protects:

  • Information your doctors, nurses, and other health care providers put in your medical record
  • Conversations your doctor has with nurses and others about your care or treatment
  • Information about you in your health insurer’s computer system
  • Billing information about you at your clinic
  • Most other health information about you held by those who must follow federal privacy and security laws pertaining to health information

Visit the HHS Office for Civil Rights website to learn more about protected health information and your privacy rights.

Read more: http://healthit.gov/patients-families/faqs/what-part-my-health-information-protected-under-hipaa#ixzz1X85xXktT