Survey suggests patients aren't interested in EHRs

Efforts to get patients more plugged into their health information may become increasingly prominent within programs like the EHR Incentive Programs, but a recent survey finds that patients may not be as interested as policymakers would like.

The online survey of 2,147 U.S. adults was conducted by Harris Interactive for Xerox, and according to a July 31 press release, only 26 percent of respondents actually want their health records to go digital.

Moreover, "according to the survey, only 40 percent of respondents believe digital records will deliver better, more efficient care. That response fell two percent from last year’s survey, and matches the response reported in 2010. Overall, 85 percent of respondents this year expressed concern about digital medical records."

As Chad Harris, group president, Xerox Healthcare Provider Solutions, summed it up, “We continue to see a resistance to change from consumers – meaning providers need to continue to educate Americans on the value of EHRs."

Two things stick out about that comment. First, without having seen the actual questions, we're not entirely sure that the low interest should be categorized as "resistance to change." It may just be that many of the respondents haven't thought much about it.

Second, Harris seems pretty sure it's up to providers to bring patients up to speed on their digital options, but we're inclined to believe that "education" is going to come via a number of channels. Indeed, the survey notes, "60 percent of respondents – who have visited a doctor or hospital – reported that the information was entered directly into a tablet, laptop or in-room computer station versus 28 percent who reported the information was taken via handwritten notes."

In other words, in the long run, patient acceptance of EHRs may come about more by osmosis than direct education followed by conscious acceptance.

For policymakers, though, the survey results may be a glimpse at just how long it's going to take for many patients to climb aboard the digital train. And it’s probably not simply that they're resistant; it may just be that they've got a whole lot of other things on their minds.

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