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Americans Overwhelmingly Back Digital Health Records Concept

Accenture study finds that majority surveyed believe E-records would improve the quality of health care and reduce costs.
Most Americans think electronic health records can boost the quality of heath care, reduce wait times, and cut costs, according to a new study released Wednesday by IT-services and consulting firm Accenture.

The apparent overwhelming support by consumers for electronic health records was surprising, says Lewis Redd, partner in Accenture's provider practice. "There's lots of groundswell in using IT in health care and delivering electronic health records," he says.

The online survey of 519 consumers was conducted in March but was released this week, about one month after Accenture completed its acquisition of the health practice of IT-services firm Capgemini. Redd joined Accenture from Capgemini, where he also headed that company's health-provider practice.

As consumers navigate through the health-care system and are asked to complete the same paper forms time and time again, and see doctors not having the patient's latest test results and other information, the need for electronic health records becomes more apparent to them, Redd says.

The Accenture survey found that 93% of respondents believe digital health records would improve quality of care; 92% think E-records would reduce treatment errors in hospitals; 75% say the systems would reduce overall health costs; and 78% believe health IT would help shorten waiting times in doctor offices and hospitals.

Also, despite the recent flood of identity theft and data-security incidents in the media, consumers responding to the Accenture survey were almost equally concerned about the security and privacy risks of digital health records and paper records.

Specifically, 54% of the respondents said they're worried about the privacy and security of paper records, while 55% answered that they think electronic records are more secure than paper ones.

In addition, 52% said they'd be willing to pay at least $5 a month to have their medical records stored digitally.

In addition to the support that's apparently growing among consumers for digital health records, support in Congress continued to build this week as well. On Wednesday, the new bi-partisan Wired For Health Care Quality Act of 2005 was introduced into the Senate by Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.; Mike Enzi, R-Pa.; Hillary Clinton, D-NY; and Bill Frist, R-Tenn.

The proposed legislation merges proposals that had been made in two separate health IT bills introduced in the Senate over the last two months by Clinton and Frist, and Kennedy and Enzi.

Among other proposals, the new bills provide financial assistance to health-care providers that develop health IT systems, such as electronic health records, that meet technical and interoperability standards developed by a new private-public coalition.