Patient Engagement

Patients Flock to Online Records and Health Apps


Digital patient experiences are becoming more important than ever, with new figures from the ONC showing a massive jump in demand for ways to access health information online.

The 2022 Health Information National Trends Survey (n=6,252) found that the portion of US adults who accessed their medical records through online tools jumped 50% between 2020 and 2022, from 38% to 57%.

  • Over the same period, the share of adults who were offered online access to their medical records by a payor or provider increased 24% to about 3 in 4.
  • Patients who were offered digital access to their records also used them more frequently, with 54% accessing them at least three times in 2022 (vs. 38% in 2020).

The ONC attributed the trend in part to the Cures Act Final Rule, which in 2020 introduced new requirements for standardized APIs for smartphone health apps.

  • In 2022, almost half of people who accessed their online medical records used only a website, whereas 19% used only an app and 32% used both.
  • The combined 51% of people who accessed their online records using an app represents a 13 percentage-point increase from 2020, and those app users also accessed their records more frequently than web-only users. 

Most of the patients accessing their online records or patient portals are using them to view test results (90%) and clinical notes (70%), but only 1 in 3 are sharing that info with a third party.

  • A vast majority (98%) also aren’t using a personal health record or portal organizing app to combine info from different sources, which the ONC suggested reflects a patient preference for tools supplied by their providers (it also probably points to a general lack of awareness around these apps and their utility).

The Takeaway

Despite the strides we’re making in patient access and the use of online medical records, the ONC’s report highlights plenty of room for improvement. Nearly half of all patients either weren’t offered or didn’t access their records / portal in 2022, and recent studies have shown significant disparities in those who do. There’s also still a relatively low percentage of patients sharing their health information, which like many of these issues, indicates a need for better education on these features.

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