Electronic Health Records

Adoption & Implementation News

Patient Access to Health Information Low But Interest High

“Healthcare providers must step up our adoption of these common-sense and available solutions if we are truly going to reform healthcare delivery.”

By Sara Heath

EHR and health IT adoption play an important role in helping healthcare providers increase the quality of patient care, but a recent Nielson survey shows that patient access to health information has not sufficiently increased as a result despite positive patient attitudes toward the use of the former.

EHRs and health IT access are low for patients, although interest is high

Specifically, the survey touched upon EHR use, showing that respondents view that technology favorably. For example, nearly 61 percent say that EHRs allow physicians to incorporate valuable information about past health conditions into their care. Additionally, nearly 77 percent of respondents stated that all physicians should be using EHRs.

Very few respondents reported that EHRs take away from quality of care. Only 17 percent of respondents said that an EHR causes the physician to concentrate more on a computer than on the patient. Additionally, only 15 percent of respondents reported having to re-tell their medical history to a physician with an EHR, and only 6 percent reported having to bring paper files with them from physician to physician.

Approximately half of respondents reported that they look forward to when EHRs and other health technology are fully integrated, allowing the patient to access his or her health information in one place.

However, although EHRs are popular among patients, other forms of health IT are under utilized, leaving physician and patient communication lacking.

Although communication between physician and patient via innovative technologies is not highly prevalent, it is increasing at a modest rate. Nearly half of respondents reported receiving appointment reminders via phone call, while 10 percent received reminders in the mail, 20 percent received reminders via email, and nine percent received text message reminders.

Specifically, use of online communications are utilized modestly. Only 28 percent of respondents have access to an online patient portal, while 15 percent of respondents are able to use that portal to communicate with their physicians. Additionally, only 21 percent of respondents are able to schedule appointments using an online tool.

Furthermore, access to medical services outside of the primary point of care are under utilized. For example, only 27 percent of respondents can call a nurse for medical advice, only 13 percent have access to evening or weekend physician office hours, and only 16 percent have access to an urgent care center that is a part of the medical practice.

Although the survey showed that most respondents presently do not have ready access to health IT, they would like to see it incorporated into their care in the future. Most notably, 36 percent of respondents would like to have 24/7 telephone access to receive medical advice, and 37 percent would like access to evening and weekend hours.

Several specific care groups showed considerable interest in certain aspects of health IT and increased physician and patient communication. For example, 51 percent of those with dependent children stated that they wanted increased weekend and evening physician hours. Those with heart disease expressed heightened interest in having telephone access to ask nurses medical questions.

The survey also showed that younger consumers had higher expectations for the use of health IT. For example, a total of 28 percent wanted text message appointment reminders, while nearly 44 percent of 18-24 year olds wanted to see that service. Additionally, a total of 19 percent of respondents wanted text message reminders to take medications, while 31 percent of 18-24 year olds stated they would like to have that service.

Experts say that these survey findings show that physicians need to adjust their practices and workflows in order to serve the needs of today’s health consumers.

"Digital technologies can help overcome the barriers to accessing medical care, yet our survey shows that these tools are not available to most Americans,” said Robert Pearl, MD, Chairman of the Council of Accountable Physician Practices and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group and the Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group. “Healthcare providers must step up our adoption of these common-sense and available solutions if we are truly going to reform healthcare delivery.”

The Director of Health Innovation at the Bipartisan Policy Center Janet Marchibroda says that the key to making these changes is in making legislative incentives that are effective.

“A lack of appropriate incentives as well as regulatory and legislative barriers have prevented many healthcare providers’ from implementing these technologies,” she explained. “Yet as healthcare organizations are increasingly responsible for improving the health of large populations, they must rely more on efficient, technology-driven patient-physician relationships to achieve performance goals. That means society must create incentives that facilitate adoption of these tools and technologies.”

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