Poll: public isn't budging much on their attitudes about health IT

By Molly Merrill
01:45 PM
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Less than one in 10 American adults use electronic medical records or e-mail their doctor, according to a new Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll.

Nearly half of respondents of the poll, which was conducted among 2,035 U.S. adults online from June 8-10, weren't even sure if their physician offered these technologies.

The majority of those polled said they would like their doctors to access their medical records online, but only about a third (30 percent) believe their insurer should have the same access.

Overall, "the general public only has a vague idea, only a very limited understanding, of what all this is about," reasoned Humphrey Taylor, chairman of the Harris Poll, a service of Harris Interactive.

The poll results show that despite the Obama administration's campaign to expand the use of health information technology, public attitudes toward electronic medical records haven't budged much over the past few years.

In 2009, 78 percent of adults indicated that they "strongly" or "somewhat" agree that doctors should have access to their electronic medical records. In 2007, 80 percent were in agreement on physicians' access to those records.

The polls also shows that patients' use of various electronic functions remains very low. Only nine percent can communicate with their doctors by e-mail, up from four percent in 2006. Eight percent can schedule a doctor's visit online, up from three percent, and eight percent can get diagnostic test results by e-mail, up from two percent in 2006.

A little more than a quarter (28 percent) of those polled thought their doctor used electronic medical records, but 42 percent said they didn't know if their primary care physician had the technology.

According to experts, consumers remain skeptical about the inappropriate use of health information stored and accessed electronically.

"Ideally, the government only allows 'covered entities' access to your entire health history, called your 'personal health information,'" said Erin Stevenson, a digital health-care consultant at Redwood Medical Consulting in Bayside, Calif. But the law is vague and full of loopholes, he explained.

Yet Stevenson doesn't think consumer skepticism will impede wider use of the technology. In the end, he said, the technology "makes moving around a city, state, or changing doctors much easier," and it allows doctors to make quicker and better informed decisions.

But, as of now, Americans don't seem to appreciate the benefits of having their intimate health details stored in a computer vs. stowed away in file folders scattered across multiple doctors' offices, Taylor said.

"The policy wonks talk very persuasively about all of the improvements in quality that come from having a complete electronic medical record," he observed, but "that case has not really been made effectively to the public."

The survey also revealed regional differences, with more people in the West (35 percent) saying their primary-care doctor uses an electronic medical record than in other regions.

But with less than a tenth of American adults using electronic medical records, "the numbers are still very small," said Taylor, suggesting that the electronic "revolution" in healthcare is still in its infancy. But the numbers in some cases have doubled, and he expects that trend to accelerate over time.

"There's no question; it's the future," Taylor said. "The question is 'How quickly do we get there?'"

 

To view data from the poll, continue to the next page.

Attitudes to Electronic Medical Records
 

 

 

Total

Strongly/ Somewhat

Agree

Strongly Agree

Somewhat Agree

Neither Agree nor Disagree

Somewhat Disagree

Strongly Disagree

All physicians treating me should have access to information contained in my EMR

%

78

46

32

15

4

4

An EMR would be a valuable tool to track the progress of my health

%

71

34

38

21

4

4

My health records are for my own use and should not be provided to other parties

%

53

28

25

26

14

7

My insurer should have access to the information in my EMR

%

30

11

19

27

18

26


Attitudes to EMRs - Trend 

 

2007*

2008*

2009

2010

Percent answering "Strongly/Somewhat Agree"

%

%

%

%

All physicians treating me should have access to information contained in my EMR

80

83

78

78

An EMR would be a valuable tool to track the progress of my health

76

81

72

71

My health records are for my own use and should not be provided to other parties

53

50

51

53

My insurer should have access to the information in my EMR

27

26

33

30

 

 

Total

East

Midwest

South

West

 

%

%

%

%

%

Have a primary care physician

89

93

85

89

84

He/She uses an EMR

28

27

32

22

35

No, does not use an EMR

17

18

16

20

15

Not sure

42

48

37

48

34

N/A - I do not have a primary care physician

12

7

15

11

16

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

 

Consumer Access to Technology 

 

 

 

I Use it Now

It's Available to Me but I Don't Use it

It is Not Available to Me

Not Sure

An electronic medical record to capture medical information

2006

%

2

3

73

22

2010

%

7

8

49

37

Email to communicate directly with my doctor

2006

%

4

4

73

19

2010

%

9

12

53

27

The ability to schedule a doctor's visit via the Internet

2006

%

3

4

75

18

2010

%

8

11

54

26

Receiving the results of diagnostic tests via email

2006

%

2

3

76

19

2010

%

8

10

52

30

A home monitoring device that allows me to send medical information - like blood pressure readings or blood tests - to the doctor's office via the telephone or email

2006

%

2

3

76

19

2010

%

3

8

61

28

Reminders via email from my doctors when you are due for a visit or some type of medical care

2006

%

4

3

74

19

2010

%

11

10

62

27

Full data available at www.harrisinteractive.com

*2008 and 2007 question asked about "Personal Health Records" (PHR) instead of "Electronic Medical Records" (EMR).

 

Does Primary Care Physician Use Electronic Medical Record for You?