Healthcare Patients Insist On E-Access: Accenture Study

Patients want more access to their medical records online, but want to maintain their personal contact with doctors, according to new Accenture research.
Is A Personal Health Record In Your Future?
Is A Personal Health Record In Your Future?
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Doctors, heed the call: The vast majority of patients want to access and manage their health information online. That's the conclusion of a recently released Accenture study in which 90% of the 1,100 patients polled reported that they want online self-service options to help them perform a variety of tasks including accessing their health information, scheduling appointments, and refilling prescriptions.

The study, entitled Is Healthcare Self-Service Online Enough To Satisfy Patients?, shows that while patients want more online options, they also want to maintain personal interactions with their clinician. In fact, 85% of respondents said they want the option of communicating with their doctor in person. The study also revealed that those who primarily live in rural areas are less likely to want their records available online.

The survey, conducted online from March 30 through April 4, also showed that nearly half of patients (46%) don't even know if their health records are available electronically. The survey's authors' note that physicians have an opportunity to inform patients of what self-service options are available to them, and by doing so physicians can encourage greater patient responsibility, which will improve healthcare delivery overall.

[ Which medical apps are doctors and patients turning to? Read 9 Mobile Health Apps Worth A Closer Look. ]

"Online self-service has many potential benefits: it helps reduce costs, drive efficiency, and empower patients to take an active role in their healthcare," the report states. "Healthcare providers should bear in mind that while in-person will never be out of style, they can better educate patients and ultimately drive greater adoption of self-service channels."

The survey also examined what technology patients preferred to use to log onto health-related web sites. For example, 73% want to refill prescriptions using health apps on mobile devices, while 72% prefer to refill their prescriptions over a website using a desktop or laptop. An overwhelming majority of patients (88%) prefer to receive digital reminders for preventative or follow-up care via email, and 63% want to receive these reminders via a mobile device.

Additionally, 72% of patients reported that they want to book, change, or cancel appointments using a computer or laptop, while 68% want to use mobile devices to manage their medical appointments.

According to Kaveh Safavi, who leads Accenture's North America health industry group, many patients pay their bills, correspond with their insurance companies, and read their bank statements online. It is, therefore, inevitable that patients would want to engage their healthcare provider and control their medical data over secure websites, and it's the idea of options in addition to personal contact with the physician that is critical to understanding patients' demands.

Safavi also said that as patients' demands bring additional pressure to bear on a more competitive healthcare marketplace, physicians will cave in to those who aren't only looking for physicians to manage their health, but also want their doctors to adopt technologies such as personal health records.

"Physicians tend to underestimate patients' desire to have access to and to control their own information," Safavi said. "It's not an either/or conversation. What patients are describing is a preference for options, not the idea that they want, for example, to self-manage their health data to the exclusion of having the ability to interact with the clinician."

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