As of 2015, most medical providers share records by mail, fax or hand delivery, according to HealthIT.gov. However, an increasing number of providers are switching to an online health information exchange, which increases the speed and accuracy of records transfers.
The most common way for records to be shared is by giving them to the patient, who then takes them to the new health care provider at the time of treatment, as reported by the Center for Advancing Health. This usually applies to providers in different clinics, such as if a patient is moving to a new city. Multiple providers in the same clinic or hospital often have access to computerized or paper patient records.
Providers who use health information exchanges can use either directed, query or consumer-mediated forms, as explained by HealthIT.gov. Directed exchanges work by allowing one provider to send information to another. Query exchanges have a secure online database that allows providers to request information themselves. This is often used for emergency care. Consumer-mediated exchanges allow the patient to log in to check and control her own records, including sending them to new providers.
Health care providers generally do not need the patient's permission to share information with other providers if it is being used to aid in treatment or payment for services. However, some may only send records to other providers at the patient's request, and often the patient needs to take charge of making sure the records are shared appropriately, according to the Center for Advancing Health.