Patients and Families
Information Technology in health care is the next consumer revolution
Learn how health IT can lead to safer, better,
and more efficient health care
What is health IT?
Over the past 20 years, our nation has undergone a major transformation due to information technology (IT). Today, we have at our fingertips access to a variety of information and services to help us manage our relationships with the organizations that are part of our lives: banks, utilities, Government offices — even entertainment companies.
Until now, relatively few Americans have had the opportunity to use this kind of technology to enhance some of the most important relationships: those related to your health. Relationships with your doctors, your pharmacy, your hospital, and other organizations that make up your circle of care are now about to benefit from the next transformation in information technology: health IT.
For patients and consumers, this transformation will enhance both relationships with providers and providers’ relationships with each other. This change will place you at the center of your care – in effect, helping to put the “I” in health IT.
Although it will take years for health care to realize all these improvements and fully address any pitfalls, the first changes in this transformation are already underway. At the same time, numerous technology tools are becoming available to improve health for you, your family, and your community.
Most consumers will first encounter the benefits of health IT through an electronic health record, or EHR, at their doctor’s office or at a hospital.
Benefits of health IT for you and your family
On a basic level, an EHR provides a digitized version of the “paper chart” you often see doctors, nurses, and others using. But when an EHR is connected to all of your health care providers (and often, to you as a patient), it can offer so much more:
Learn More About
EHR Benefits for our Country's Health
Health It and Health Care Quality
Health IT and Convenience
Learn how to be more involved in your own health care: Take control of your health with e-health tools
Accessing Your Health Information
Your rights and your provider's responsibilities
You have the right to receive copies of your health information from your doctor and from other providers, such as physical therapists and social workers. If your health care provider keeps your records electronically, you have a right to receive them in either electronic or paper form.
Depending on your doctor's or hospital's policies, you may have to make requests for health information in writing, and you may be asked to pay a small fee to cover your doctor's costs for furnishing you with the information. Many health care providers — particularly those still using paper-based systems — may not have all of your records available immediately, so it might take them a while to fulfill your request.
Finally, in some limited circumstances, your doctor may refuse to comply with your request. In such cases, they must supply an explanation in writing.
Making your request
For each provider from whom you wish to receive records, prepare to make your request by writing down what information you want and how you would like to receive it. Think about the following questions:
Once you know what you're looking for, contact your health care provider's office to find out how to submit your request. In some cases, your doctor may provide instructions for requesting your records on his or her practice web site or in a handout about privacy policies.
If you do not receive your information in a timely manner, follow up with your provider's office. If you feel your request is still not being handled properly, you can register a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Civil Rights.