Patients say they want tech tools to manage their health, but do they really?

Contrary to some previous research, the vast majority of patients in an Accenture poll said they want to use technology to manage their own healthcare.

In the survey of 1,100 U.S. patients, 90 percent prefer web-based access to health information and education, and 72 percent want to book, change or cancel physician appointments online.

Yet 85 percent also want in-person interactions with their doctors when needed.

"Patients increasingly want access to their personal medical information, anytime, anywhere, but they're not willing to give up the option of face time with their physicians," Kaveh Safavi, M.D., who leads Accenture's North America health industry group, said in a statement.

Among the survey's other findings:

  • 48 percent want their doctors to manage their medical records, while 44 percent want to do it themselves.

  • 33 percent did not know whether services such as bill pay, electronic reminders and lab results were available to them online.

  • 88 percent want to receive email reminders for preventative or follow-up care and 76 percent want the option of email consultations with doctors.

  • 73 percent prefer to use a mobile device to request prescription refills.

Apathy has been blamed for the low adoption rate for personal health records. In another study published in January in the Journal of American Medical Informatics Association, only 26 percent of hypertension patients studied regularly used personal health records (PHRs). PHR access failed to affect outcomes and older patients were less likely to use it.

But Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements will call on providers to boost patient engagement in their own healthcare and healthcare data. Among the suggestions for increasing use of PHRs: help patients to become more tech-savvy, address privacy concerns and show the benefits, especially to patients' wallets.

Some tweaks to the system and processes might help, as well. In a pair of studies published in December in the Annals of Internal Medicine, 79 percent of the 18,000 users of the VA's PHR system said they would like to share information with someone outside the VA system, such as a spouse, child or other family member.

In the second study of people using electronic patient portals in three states, more than 90 percent were eager to see their doctor's notes. The physicians were less enthusiastic, concerned that the patient access to physician notes would just cause patients to worry more.

Meanwhile, patients continue to demand more transparency in treatment and costs, and are getting with tools such as UnitedHealthcare's price-comparison tool myHealthcare Cost Estimator.

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