Patients have strong concerns about privacy, security, complexity related to ditching paper for digital health records, Xerox survey shows.
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Barely a quarter of U.S. adults want medical records converted from paper to electronic, and 85% of the public expressed concerns about electronic health records (EHRs), according to a recent Harris Interactive survey conducted on behalf of a Xerox subsidiary.
Furthermore, just 40% of the 2,147 people interviewed in May said that EHRs would help doctors deliver better, more efficient care, down slightly from 42% in 2011. This is the third year that the Breakaway Group, which offers EHR simulation training to help clinicians through the transition to electronic records, has commissioned the survey. Xerox acquired the Breakaway Group late last year.
There might be a bit of contradiction within the Xerox survey itself, too. More than two-thirds of respondents mostly agreed with the statement that EHRs would improve the quality of treatment they receive from their own healthcare providers, and 60% said they believe EHRs would help reduce total healthcare costs. Still, only 40% said they have noticed an improvement in their own care since their providers adopted electronic records.
Many consumer concerns stem from the possibility of records being stolen by hackers, the potential for misuse of personal information, and the inability for physicians to access patient records during a power or computer outage.
"The number of people who didn't see a benefit or had concerns was large," Markus Fromherz, Xerox chief innovation officer for healthcare, told InformationWeek Healthcare. He noted that privacy is "a common concern" about EHRs.
"However, paper is not secure, either," Fromherz said. That message apparently hasn't filtered down to the general public, though. Just 14% of respondents said paper records were prone to error.
Awareness of EHRs remains high, as 87% of survey respondents said they were familiar with the idea of switching from paper to electronic records, up slightly from 83% last year and 82% in 2010. But only 26% said they wanted their own medical records to be digital, about the same number as who thought the changeover would be "a huge undertaking that will be riddled with problems before it works well." Still, merely 9% said the idea "frightens" them, down from 12% in 2011.
A lot of consumers have been turned off by the perception that the computer interferes with the doctor-patient relationship. Fromherz said physicians need to find a way to facilitate "shared viewing" of the EHR in an unobtrusive manner. "I see patients expecting their doctors to do something different," he said. This, according to Fromherz, might mean using an iPad.
"There definitely is a need for better information systems and interfaces," Fromherz said.
Xerox does advise healthcare providers on EHR system selection and implementation.
Healthcare organizations' top IT priorities in 2012 are focused on digitizing and managing patient information, achieving Meaningful Use, and meeting various government-related mandates and policy requirements. Download our Healthcare IT 2012 Priorities report. (Free registration required.)
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