Electronic Health Records

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Study: Patients want online access to medical images

By Jennifer Bresnick

In a new study by IDR Medical and Carestream Health, researchers found that patients were interested in accessing medical images such as x-rays, CT scans, and mammograms through an online patient portal, with 68% saying it was “extremely likely” they would do so if given the option.  Most respondents would also want access to clinical notes accompanying the images, which is good news for providers worried about meeting patient engagement requirements coming in Stage 2 of meaningful use.

One thousand patients who had recently undergone an imaging study participated in the survey, which was intended to gauge attitudes towards patient portal use ahead of Stage 2.  The researchers hypothesized that older patients would be less likely to use an online portal, but that patients who often get images taken or already use an online system to access other health data would frequently access a portal.

Surprisingly, the idea that older patients are less likely to use the internet for their health needs proved false.  While elderly participants older than 71 expressed less interest in online access, patients aged 50 to 70 actually had the most positive attitude towards patient portals.  This may be partly due to the overwhelming desire of parents, who often fall into this age group, to view the images of their children.  Ninety percent of parents wanted to use a portal to view their children’s x-rays or MRI scans, compared to 82% of people who wanted to view their own images.

As expected, patients who already had access to a patient portal were highly likely to view imaging studies as well.  “When provided with a choice of media through which images and reports could be received, respondents indicated a significant preference (78.9%) for access to an online imaging portal, either singularly or in combination with hard copies of images and reports,” the study states, as compared to 11.8% who preferred CDs, DVDs, or paper printouts.  Forty-one percent wanted both a hard copy and online access to their images.

The primary downside to portals, according to the participants, was data security.  Seventeen percent of patients had reservations about storing their health information online, believing that the data would not be private or secure.

The business case for patient engagement tools such as online portals is illustrated in another statistic: 79% of patients who were offered an imaging portal would be more likely to return to that facility for additional tests.  Three-quarters would also recommend that facility to a friend based on the availability of online access to their test results.  “With trends in today’s healthcare environment, such as increasing price transparency and expanding consumer orientation toward choices, combined with the continued infiltration of IT into the daily activities of patients and healthcare providers, a service-oriented online imaging portal can deliver significant value to those patients and their providers,” the study concludes.





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