Electronic Health Records

Adoption & Implementation News

Patient Engagement Rises with Consumer EHR Satisfaction

By Jennifer Bresnick

Patient engagement helps consumers view EHRs more positively and encourages them to take charge of their health.

The overwhelming majority of patients believe that electronic health records (EHRs) are useful for physicians and valuable for their care, according to a newly released survey by the National Partnership for Women and Families.  Patients were more likely to rate EHRs as a positive development when they had online access to personal health information through a portal or if they could perform routine administrative tasks like making appointments through the internet.  The survey illustrates the importance of patient engagement while highlighting the spread of health IT and its potential impact on the nation’s health.

The survey reassesses questions about health IT usages and attitudes that were first posed in 2011.  At that time, only 64% of patients had a primary care doctor who used an EHR, but that number has increased to 80% in 2014.  Patients are significantly more likely to see EHRs as a useful tool for care delivery than they are to say the same thing about paper record keeping.  They are also more likely to think that EHRs are helpful for their physicians, and believe that EHRs are also helpful to achieve their own personal tasks and goals.

Online access to EHRs or patient portals has doubled in the past three years, the data found.  Half of patients can now view or share their information online, and more than half of those patients use the ability three times per year or more.   Patients continue to place a premium on the ability to conduct important tasks through their portals.  Access to online scheduling and prescription management features boosted patient opinions of EHRs by 31 percent.  Fifty-six percent of respondents desired email communication with their provider, while 58% wanted to review physician documentation and a similar number wanted the ability to look at their treatment plans.

Patients who frequently accessed their information online also reported higher levels of motivation to improve their own health.  However, survey participants complained that they did not have the right tools to track personal progress towards their goals, which may indicate an opportunity for developers to better integrate lifestyle and chronic disease management into the patient engagement experience.

“As the National Partnership’s new data show, more consumers are accessing, sharing and using their health information, underlining the importance of interoperability of health data and systems. We are focusing our efforts in these areas to empower individuals to address not only gaps in information exchange and interoperability, but also enable them to take steps to improve their health and better manage their health needs,” said National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo in a press release.

“The views of patients must be front and center as we take the next steps in implementing health IT,” added Sandra R. Hernández, President and CEO of the California HealthCare Foundation, which funded the new survey. “As we as a nation become more diverse, the imperative to address disparities grows. We need the kind of robust information EHRs provide and the genuine patient engagement they can facilitate.”

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