Nearly half of consumers have viewed or would be interested in seeing their electronic health records (EHRs), according to a new survey by Manhattan Research. But so far, that interest has not translated into a leap in the use of personal health record (PHR) applications to store that data.
Based on the survey's sample of 8,745 adults, Manhattan Research estimated that 56 million people, or 24% of the adult population, have already accessed data in their physician's EHR. Moreover, the New York-based firm said, 41 million (17%) more consumers would like to have this access.
In contrast, 140 million consumers--a 59% majority--report that they have not used and would not be interested in accessing their medical records in their doctor's EHR.
The two groups have very different profiles, said Monique Levy, VP of research for Manhattan Research, in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare. Those who have accessed or would like to access their EHR data, she noted, "tend to be more proactive in terms of going online to look for health information; they're more advanced in terms of the devices they use; when we talked about what pain points they experienced with the healthcare system, they were more keenly aware of things that aren't working. So their profiles suggest they're more proactive about their health."
People who reject the idea of looking up their medical records online, she said, are older, "less advanced" in the use of technology, and less interested in searching for information online. Also, she said, the non-users "don't seem concerned with things that aren't working in the healthcare system."
As a whole, Levy said, the results indicate that the non-users either don't have a need for their health information or are more passive than the users and would-be users of the data.
Asked how patients obtained the EHR data, Levy replied, "Some of them may have seen it during the consultation. Doctors may have swiveled the screen around to show the data to the patient. The other way would be to give patients portal access to some part of the record."
The survey did not ask consumers, however, how they had gotten access to the information. So it is also possible that their physicians gave them a CD or a thumbdrive containing the data. Practice management consultants say this is one way for practices to meet the Meaningful Use requirement that they provide patients with electronic copies of their health information upon request.
Another question the survey did not ask was what portions of their medical record the consumers viewed. Levy said it is likely that some of the content consisted of lab results.
The survey didn't show whether consumers who obtain EHR data store it in a personal health record (PHR). However, it did find that 16% of "online" consumers, or about 30 million people, have PHRs. When that figure is compared with the total number of adults over 18, it appears that 12.6% of respondents have PHRs. That's just a bit more than the 11% of Americans who said they had PHRs in a recent Deloitte survey.
While that percentage is growing rapidly--it was only 3% in 2008--it still represents a small percentage of consumers. Observers offer several reasons, including limitations of PHR data, applications that don't engage consumers, and resistance to entering data manually into the PHR.
The Manhattan Research results suggest that even consumers who want access to their EHR data don't necessarily want to store and manage the information themselves.
"We asked people why they hadn't stored their information in an online PHR and the immediate answer was, 'I expect my doctors to maintain it and collect it,'" said Levy.
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