Is there any progress with patients embracing EHRs?

by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | December 12, 2014
Health IT
More and more patients are starting to embrace EHRs, according to a new study released by the National Partnership for Women & Families called Engaging Patients and Families: How Consumers Value and Use Health IT. The study was conducted by Harris Poll and surveyed 2,045 adults — 1,192 with physicians who use EHRs and 853 with those who use paper-record systems — in the U.S. from April 22 to May 7, 2014.

Almost every stakeholder knows that greater patient engagement is essential to reducing costs and improving care and health, according to the study. Because of that, the National Partnership for Women & Families felt it was important to assess patients' views of health IT.

The organization conducted a national survey in 2011 after the Medicare and Medicaid EHR 'Meaningful Use" Incentive Program was introduced to investigate patients' expectations for EHRs and health IT as a whole. Three years later, they decided to conduct this follow-up study.

"To date, the public discourse on health IT has largely focused on the views of doctors, hospitals and vendors," Debra L. Ness, president of the organization, said in a statement. "It is crucial to hear what patients have to say about how they experience EHRs and health IT as they receive care and manage their health — and that's the focus of Engaging Patients."

First they asked questions to evaluate the patients' opinions on the value of EHRs and paper-record systems. Then they analyzed the impact of having online access to the EHR information by asking questions about the availability of online access today, how often the patients use it, the influence it has on their health and care and the features they want.

They found that 86 percent of the respondents with online access to their EHRs reported that they used it at least once in the past year and 55 percent reported that they used them three or more times. From 2011 to 2014, their online access to EHR has increased from 26 percent to 50 percent.

When asked if they thought EHRs were useful in various aspects of care delivery, more than 85 said yes, but a little more than half viewed paper records as useful.

When asked about what improvements should be made to EHRs, 56 percent said they would like to email their physicians, 56 percent want to review their treatment plans, 58 percent want to see the doctors' notes, 75 percent want access to test results, 64 percent want to schedule appointments and 59 percent want to submit medication refill requests.

"The views of patients must be front and center as we take the next steps in implementing health IT," Sandra R. Hernandez, president and CEO of the California HealthCare Foundation, which funded the new survey, said in a statement. "As we as a nation become more diverse, the imperative to address disparities grows. We need the kind of robust information EHRs provide and the genuine patient engagement they can facilitate."

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