Consider all the stakeholders with something to gain by moving from paper health records to digital electronic records. Who do you think would gain the most from EHRs, and who the least? A survey from Xerox finds that the among all the groups American adults say have the least to gain through EHRs is, the most common response is…patients.
29% of people aren’t really sure who’s to gain from moving to EHRs.
To better understand Americans’ views on electronic health records (EHRs), Xerox polled 2720 adults 18 and over in May 2011.
The topline finding is that 83% of people have concerns about digital medical records. The most concerning issue is that “my” personal health information could be hacked, cited by two-thirds of people. The second most common concern is that digital medical record files could be lost, damaged or corrupted (noted by 54%) and that personal health information could be misused (52%). Another worry is that a power outage or computer problem could prevent providers from accessing health information, cited by 52% of people surveyed.
Only 16% of people surveyed said they’d been involved by their health provider (hospital, doctor, dentist) in converting their paper health records into digital format. This is only 2 percentage points higher than the number of people saying they’d been involved in the digital EHR conversion process last year.
Xerox asked people their perceptions about converting paper medical records to digital format: the most common shared perspective is that digital records could lead to better, more efficient care, cited by 42% of people. “I think it’s necessary,” was asserted by 37% of people, and “I want my medical records to be digital” was noted by 29% of people. 14% of people think paper records are prone to errors.
Interestingly, among people who are familiar with the conversion of paper to digital records, the consensus on these positive aspects is greater: for example, 51% of those familiar with EHRs say digital records will mean better, more efficient care compared with 42% of the general population. 45% see the move to EHRs is “necessary,” vs. 37% of the overall population.
On the less sanguine side of EHR perceptions, 1 in 4 people believe that moving to digital health records “seems like a huge undertaking that will be riddled with problems before it works well.” 17% of people simply aren’t familiar with the conversion of paper to digital records. And 12% of people say the prospect of moving from paper to digital records “frightens me.”
Xerox created the infographic summarizing the survey’s results, shown above,
Jane’s Hot Points: This survey reveals something important about peoples’ perceptions of the value of EHRs once they become familiar with the migration from paper records to digital: that more people see positive aspects of digital health records once they become familiar with the concept compared with people who aren’t acquainted with EHRs. This strongly suggests the need for education and raising awareness of EHRs.’
A key aspect of this work will be communicating the value to the individual patient: that is, to “me.” Health is personal: it’s about the self, the family, other loved ones, and “my” community. Communicating the benefits of EHRs across these consumer group-types will be important to gain health citizens’ trust in this new (for most people) form of health information. That will be a strategic, necessary step that will help providers get to meaningful use.
While Xerox suggests in its press release that it’s providers who can serve up this sort of education, the Federal government, through ONC and the leadership of Lygeia Ricciardi, is developing just such a campaign: Putting the “I” into Health IT. I am part of a working group informing the consumer message component of this program, and it’s moving along. quickly. Expect to see the launch of this important campaign in the autumn 2011. In the meantime, you can get a flavor for this effort by watching this excellent video.
Jane Sarasohn-Kahn is a health economist and management consultant that serves clients at the intersection of health and technology. Jane’s lens on health is best-defined by the World Health Organization: health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. She blogs at HEALTHPopuli.