Patients Willing to Switch Doctors For Access to Electronic Health Records?

According to a new survey by Accenture, and featured in Healthcare IT News, among other publications, more U.S. consumers (41 percent) are willing to switch doctors for access to electronic health records.

According to more than 9,000 people in nine countries, people are becoming more engaged with their EHRs and are going so far as to make the switch.

However, “only about a third of U.S. consumers (36 percent) currently have full access to their EMR, but more than half (57 percent) have taken ownership of their record by self-tracking their personal health information including their health history (37 percent), physical activity (34 percent) and health indicators (33 percent), such as blood pressure and weight.”

Roughly four out of five consumers (84 percent) surveyed believe they should have full access to their electronic medical record while only a third of physicians (36 percent) share this belief. In contrast, the majority of U.S. doctors (65 percent) say patients should only have limited access to their records and that is what most individuals (63 percent) say they currently have.

Accenture conducted an online survey of 9,015 adults ages 18 and older to assess consumer perceptions of their medical providers’ electronic capabilities across nine countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, France, Germany, Singapore, Spain and the United States. The survey, which included 1,000 U.S. consumers, was fielded by Harris Interactive in July 2013. Where relevant, the survey compares select findings from the Accenture Doctors Survey to compare the doctor and consumer responses.

“The rise of meaningful use mandates and a growing trend of self-care among consumers is shifting the role of an EHR from a mere clinical repository to a platform for shared decision-making among consumers and doctors,” said Kaveh Safavi, MD, managing director of Accenture’s North America health business.

“Just as consumers can self-manage most other aspects of their lives, they expect to take greater ownership of their medical care, and they are willing to switch to doctors who share their values and are willing to provide access to consumer records,” Safavi said.

These are interesting perspectives, but not entirely new and certainly not unique.

Let me explain:  Take a look at a press release I wrote in April 2011 about the results of a survey conducted by my then employer, Sage Healthcare. I quote its entirety here:

“The adoption of electronic health records has grown in recent years as the U.S. government’s incentive plans and the benefits of these systems are realized by more and more office-based physicians,” said Betty Otter-Nickerson, (then) president of Sage Healthcare Division. “The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics estimates that more than half of office-based physicians have adopted a basic EHR, while more than 10 percent have adopted a fully functional system, such as Sage Intergy EHR. The results of the study will help Sage Healthcare design solutions that maximize the benefit to physicians and their patients.”

The Sage Healthcare Insights study examines the effect of implementing an electronic health record system on both physicians and their patients. The purpose is to understand how the perceptions of physicians who use EHR systems differ or are similar to the perceptions of the patients who recall seeing their physician use the system. According to the study, patients felt more comfortable with physicians that used an EHR system, and more importantly, felt that the information contained in the medical record was more accurate when they physically saw information being entered electronically.

“What we learned is patients like to see their verbatim information entered into the record as they said it, not as the doctor interpreted it,” added Otter-Nickerson.

Key Findings:

Overall, most physicians and patients agreed that medical records stored electronically will help improve patient care. Also, physicians and other clinicians who participated in the study were quick to point out that EHR is a tool to help them perform their work more efficiently.

According to the survey, patients, on the other hand, increasingly expect that their doctor offer them access to electronic medical records and patient e-tools, and as a result, are encouraging their physicians to adopt more connected technologies such as electronic health records, said Otter-Nickerson.

“Patients who participated in the survey said they had greater confidence in providers who use electronic records. This suggests that there’s an opportunity for doctors to learn directly from their patients how to improve their practices and their patient relationships.”

What am I trying to say: Sure, more patients are wanting access to their records and more will demand it from their physicians or otherwise, but let’s not pretend that Accenture’s news is new, groundbreaking or shocking.

This is a topic talked about for years, and yes, there is an uptick, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

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