Canadian attitude towards EHRs may be healthier than ours

As an American and Canadian dual national, I found this EHR Intelligence article about dueling surveys as amusing as it was informative. It seems that Canadians are much more receptive to EHRs than Americans. According to a 2012 Harris Decima survey, a whopping 85 percent of Canadians thought that EHRs were a good or very good idea. Moreover, more than half of them had no privacy or other concern about their records being in electronic format.

Contrast that to a Harris Interactive survey for Xerox conducted around the same time which found that 85 percent of Americans expressed "anxiety" about having their records digitized. Almost two-thirds (63 percent) feared that a hacker would steal their personal data; half worried that the data would be lost, damaged or corrupted. Only one-quarter (26 percent) said that they wanted their medical records to be digitized. 

Americans' mistrust of EHRs hasn't changed much within the past year, either--even though more and more American providers are transitioning to EHR systems.   

Why such a disparity? Why are Canadians embracing EHRs while Americans sound like they're cowering in a corner?

The EHR Intelligence speculates whether the disconnect has social or political roots.

Of course it does. Let's be honest here. Americans tend to be a cantankerous lot. We are bombarded with negativity about everything Health IT-related. EHRs can hurt patients. Tens of thousands of data breaches have been reported to HHS in just the past few years. Meaningful Use is too hard and being implemented too quickly. The health insurance exchange websites are full of glitches. Patients are steeped in mistrust of the healthcare system.

Then we're spoon fed misinformation about EHRs for political reasons, so it's hard for the average American to distill what's true about EHRs and what's malarkey.  No wonder they're fearful.

And this negativity is not limited to health IT. The lead article in today's online Toronto Globe and Mail is about a family foundation's gift to Toronto hospitals. The Washington Post's? The head of the NSA's denial that the United States collected data on its European allies.

Our federal government is so partisan, it can barely function. Canada's government is much less nasty. As one of my Canadian relatives recently remarked to me, "Your politics are just so much more interesting."

But the differing attitude towards EHRs point to a deeper, more cultural divide. Truly, Canadians and Americans are not that different from each other. But they're coming from different places. Canadians have universal healthcare. It's a single payor, publicly funded system. It's not perfect, but they're less stressed in general when it comes to healthcare. They don't have to compare a myriad of health insurance plans and worry about high deductibles. Providers don't have to struggle the way American providers do to get paid. Perhaps that way they can focus more on implementing EHRs and caring for their patients. It seems calmer. No wonder they're less anxious about EHRs. They're less anxious in general.  

Plus Canadians are overall a more tolerant bunch. They're pretty open-minded. I can see them being more accepting of change; of EHRs.

Yes, we should all be concerned about data breaches and hacking. But the negativity should be balanced by the positive aspects of EHRs. Let's keep things in perspective and not be overrun by anxiety. That's just not healthy.   - Marla (@MarlaHirsch @FierceHealthIT)