Consumers, Providers Differ On E-Health Record Plan - InformationWeek

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Software // Enterprise Applications

Consumers, Providers Differ On E-Health Record Plan

Most health-care providers think the government will meet its goal of having digital health records for most Americans by 2014, while most consumers are unaware of the goal.

American health-care providers and consumers don't see eye-to-eye regarding the nation's move to E-health records, according to findings of two new surveys.

While only a small percentage of doctor practices and hospitals in the U.S. have deployed E-health record systems so far, a majority says they plan to do so. More than half are confident the nation will meet President Bush's stated goal for most Americans to have digital health records by 2014, according to a new study by Oracle.

The applications and database company surveyed 364 health providers, including doctor practices, hospitals, and community clinics. Those respondents included C-level executives, IT and network managers, department level managers, and clinicians. Oracle is currently involved with a number of large regional health IT deployments and pilot programs in the U.S.

Fifty-one percent of those respondents expect the nation to meet the goal by 2014, and an optimistic 5% think the goal will be meet within 5 years. Still, nearly 38% of all the respondents of the survey expect that a 10 to 20 year timeline is more realistic for the nation to achieve the goal of most Americans having E-heath records.

Meanwhile, American consumers for the most part are unaware of these efforts, according to a new survey by IDC, which found that seven in ten aren't even aware of the U.S. government's E-health record mission.

The survey of 1,095 consumers conducted by IDC's Health Industry Insights revealed that 70% did not know about the U.S. government's efforts to make E-health records available to most Americans by 2014. Also, regardless of their level of awareness about the effort, they were nearly split about their confidence that the government would meet the 2014 goal.

Privacy is the biggest worry regarding the E-health record effort. Eighty-six percent said they were very or somewhat concerned about the health industry's ability to protect personal privacy of E-health records. Still, a majority expect E-health record systems to favorably impact the quality of care they receive from their primary care providers.

Meanwhile, one of the biggest surprises in Oracle's survey was that respondents from ambulatory community health-care clinic have the most aggressive timelines to participate in RHIOs, or regional health information organizations, which are regional networks of clinicians interconnected to electronically exchange patient clinical information, says Mychelle Mowry, VP of Oracle Global Health Industries. Ninety-two percent of clinics say they will deploy electronic health record systems, 33% say they are already involved or plan to be involved with a RHIO within one year, and 44% anticipate completion within 5 years.

Mowry says those ambitious plans by clinics is surprising because may of the policy, tech standards, and legal issues involving RHIOs have not yet been worked out. "When you work with a competitor down the street, you don't open your kimono all the way," she says.

While the deployment of digital-health record systems present health-care providers with many challenges, including major cultural, workflow, and process changes, 75% of respondents singled out IT itself—including the need for standards related to interoperability—as the major stumbling block in E-health record implementations.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents also recommended financial incentives—including direct government funding, industry donations, and tax incentive programs—to help drive e-health record adoption.

Oracle also is one of a number of technology vendors that is putting its money where its mouth is in terms of evangelizing the benefits of E-health records. The software vendor, along with fellow Silicon Valley high-tech employers Cisco and Intel, recently formed a new "pay-for-performance" consortium that rewards area doctors who use technology to improve care to patients that are employees or family members. Initially, the consortium will pay financial incentives to participants based on measurements in three key categories that are helped by IT: evidence-based care, care management, and patient education. Those three tech companies join a small but growing band of employers, including IBM, which last fall launched an incentive programs that rewards physicians for using health IT in their practices.

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