In a July 2013 study, researchers discovered that 78 percent of responding patients were more satisfied with their healthcare when they had access to their electronic health records (EHRs) versus those without access. Another significant finding of the study declares that 73 percent of patients are more loyal to their physicians that use patient portals than those patients of no-access doctors.
The EHR Survey and Patient Study
This study, conducted by research and consulting firm Aeffect and communications agency 88 Brand Partners, is one of the first of its kind to investigate patient satisfaction with EHRs. The groups began by surveying 1,000 patients that met a number of requirements, including health insurance, a regular doctor, and recent office visits. Most respondents were between the ages of 25 and 55, making them prime users of Health Information Technology such as EHRs. Furthermore, patients were specifically chosen to provide a cross section of nationwide ages, genders, and ethnicities.
First of all, this study included interesting data about the status of EHR implementation and patient portals nationwide. With patient engagement one of the major focuses of Stages 2 and 3 of EHR Meaningful Use, this data is especially telling about the current use of electronic records. Of the data pool of patients, only 18 percent responded that they were uninterested in viewing their own medical records, while a majority of 52 percent declared themselves interested non-users. This largest population of the study shows that the majority of patients would like access to their records but that access is currently unavailable. Most of these interested respondents are younger patients or those with children.
A Second Survey of Patients
In an unrelated but corroborating survey, IDR Medical and Carestream Health discovered a similar pattern of patient interest in personal access. This team of researchers report that 68 percent of patient responders would be extremely likely to access their personal medical data if given access through an online portal. In this particular study, the researchers requested responses dealing with medical imaging, such as x-rays, MRIs, and mammograms, and the patient interest mirrors the other survey.
Like Aeffect’s and 88 Brand Partners’ work, IDR Medical and Carestream Health surveyed 1,000 patients, targeting those who had recently had imaging or scans completed. In another piece of corroborating evidence with previous study, parents constituted the majority of patients who would like online access, presumably because they want to be able to view their children’s x-rays or MRI scans. However, unlike the previous work, patients aged 50 to 70 years old scored surprisingly high on the requests for online access as well.
In addition to the similarities in patient interest and demographics, this second survey also found that patients with imaging portal access are also more likely to reuse the same hospital or facility for further testing. Those patients would also recommend the patient portal facility to friends or family members who also required images or scans.
The Main Concern of Patients
While the patient enthusiasm for online portal access is encouraging for those physicians and hospitals looking ahead to the requirements for Meaningful Use, patients in both studies expressed some misgivings about Internet access. The main concern for patients is data security.
The convenience of online access for patients and their personal medical records and images does not overpower the belief that their personal data may not be completely private and secure when stored on servers or online. In an age when identity theft is a serious concern for many people, Internet-based personal data can cause many patients to pause. However, the HIPAA-compliant security measures provided by most EHR vendors can more than guarantee the privacy of patient data.
As some physicians and hospitals continue to drag their feet on EHR implementation, others are moving forward with the next phases of the Meaningful Use. With the focus of Stages 2 and 3 on patient engagement, the availability and use of patient portals will be more important than ever. Healthcare providers that are concerned about beginning this next step in the EHR process do not need to fear the coming changes. As both of these studies have shown, patients are more than ready to utilize access to their own personal medical data.