Consumers more comfortable with electronic health records

Patients see "significant" value in electronic health records and want more access, according to a new report from the National Partnership for Women & Families.

For the report, an online survey conducted last spring by Harris Poll of more than 2,000 respondents found that more consumers viewed EHRs positively in 2014 than in 2011, even if their own doctor didn't use them. Between 85 and 96 percent of all patients saw EHRs as useful in the delivery of healthcare both for providers and for patients. Comparatively, only 57 and 68 percent saw paper records as useful. 

These views may be attributable to the increase in EHRs themselves. The percent of patients who reported that their doctors used an EHR jumped from 64 percent in 2011 to 80 percent; online access to information in their EHRs has nearly doubled in the past three years, from 26 percent to 50 percent. Of those with such access, 86 percent made use of this capability at least once a year. Consumers with online access also have more trust in EHRs.

The report made some recommendations to increase patient engagement, such as integrating more "convenience" features into the EHR systems; fostering trust by showing how health information is stored, exchanged, used and protected; and building tools and systems that recognize and reflect demographic diversity.

"[W]ith current Meaningful Use criteria requiring patients' online access to health information and with more robust criteria for patient engagement on the horizon, a variety of strategies and tools are needed to meet patients wherever they are along a continuum of engagement and health," the report's authors wrote. "As we build a nationwide health IT infrastructure, consumers need flexible health IT solutions and tools that are capable of supporting different phases of health and are consistent with shifting needs and priorities."

The survey, a follow up to one first conducted in 2011, was funded by the California HealthCare Foundation. It mirrors, to some extent, other studies of consumers' views of EHRs, which have found people in favor of electronic access to their records. A recent survey by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT found support for EHR use and data sharing relatively high, even though 75 percent of respondents were very or somewhat concerned about the privacy and security of their medical records.

"The views of patients must be front and center as we take the next steps in implementing health IT," Sandra Hernández, president and CEO of the California HealthCare Foundation, said in a statement. "As we as a nation become more diverse, the imperative to address disparities grows. We need the kind of robust information EHRs provide and the genuine patient engagement they can facilitate."

To learn more:
- read the announcement
- here's the report (.pdf)