Survey Shows Patients Approve of Electronic Health Records, Want Online EMR Access
Medical practices of all sizes have seen that electronic health and medical billing system software can benefit care providers by improving day-to-day efficiency and streamlining collection (by automatically linking care records to medical billing systems, it’s easier to submit claims and receive payment from insurance companies). The shift toward electronic health records may have been precipitated by government-provided financial incentives — and indeed, as of 2013, 69% of physicians said they were participating in or intended to apply for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs — but their use is becoming entrenched because they work well.
But how do patients feel about their electronic medical records? According to a new report put out by the National Partnership for Women and Families, patients too find “significant” value in electronic records and want to have more personal access to them online.
The report is based on a Harris Poll survey conducted last spring. Of the 2,000 participants, more viewed EHRs positively in 2014 than viewed them positively in 2011. Between 85% and 96% of respondents said that EHRs benefited both providers and patients — a number that was between only 57% and 68% for paper records. That outlook remained the same even if the respondent’s own doctor wasn’t currently using EMR software.
The report suggests that one reason for this is the growing ubiquity of EHRs. In 2001, only 18% of office-based physicians used EHRs of any kind. A decade later, that figure rose to 55%. Last year, 78% of physicians had adopted an EHR system.
Both positive and negative patient feelings about electronic records seem to be linked to interconnected concerns of accessibility and privacy. Of the survey respondents, the number who had access to their information via online EMRs had almost doubled in three years alone (jumping from 26% to 50%). Among patients who had that capability, 86% took advantage of their access at least once annually. And here’s an important takeaway: Patients with access to online EMRs via the Internet have higher overall trust in the value of EMRs.
But accessibility can also lead to questions about security and privacy, and that still seems to be the biggest battle EHR proponents face in terms of public perception. A different study, conducted by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, found that 75% of the patients surveyed with either “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the privacy of their medical records. Ameliorating those doubts is the next step for the industry.