Patients Less Weary About Physicians’ Use of EHRs

Can this be true? Can there really be such an unopposed path to truth despite the stories to the contrary? People – patients – love electronic health records? If this is true, perhaps we should keep in mind the organization publishing this information, which has a vested interest in making sure folks love the technology. However, all of that aside, and even though there are concerns that remain, according to the office of the National Coordinator, consumers (people like you and me, that is) remain concerned about the privacy and security of their medical records, but whether the physician uses an electronic system makes little difference.

According to a new data brief from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, while building public trust is vital to the spread of electronic health records and health information exchanges (HIEs), public support remains strong for these efforts, suggesting that consumers are aware of the benefits despite the risks, the paper concludes.

In a poll of more than 2,000 people conducted in 2013, 70 percent said they were concerned about the privacy of their medical records, and 75 percent voiced concerns about security. However, less than one in 10 (10 percent) reported withholding information from their doctor because of those worries.

According to the brief, patient’s whose physician used paper records were “slightly” more concerned about privacy and security or the fact that their personal health information would be compromised, and those patients whose physicians used an EHR were a bit more likely to withhold information.

In addition, six in 10 people were concerned about unauthorized viewing of their records when they were sent electronically between healthcare providers, a proportion similar to those worried about unauthorized viewing when records were exchanged by fax.

Also according to the ONC’s brief is that three out of four respondents wanted their provider to use an EHR despite any privacy or security concerns; and seven in 10 supported their provider’s participation in a health information exchange

According to FierceHealth, all of these data points are similar to another survey from a poll of Californians that found that consumers’ concerns must be addressed to make health information exchanges more secure.

Researchers from the University of California, Davis and the University of California, San Diego polled 800 randomly selected Californians in early 2013 to gather their views about the privacy and security of an electronic HIE, a research network and whether attitudes differed between the two. More than three-quarters of respondents rated security and privacy the most important factor in their willingness to participate.

The researchers found that more than 40 percent of respondents think an HIE worsens privacy while nearly 43 percent believe it worsens security. More than half of respondents (52.4 percent) believe EHRs worsen privacy and 42.7 percent believe EHRs worsen security. Thus, there’s work to still be done to convince patients that information security is no longer much of a factor, or at least as much of a factor as it once was.

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