Survey highlights need for docs to talk to patients about moving to an EHR

Although nearly half of all Americans are ready to toss the paper and believe electronic health records will enable more efficient healthcare, they are largely in the dark about what it actually means for them as a patient, says a new survey.

The online survey, conducted for Norwalk, Conn.-based Xerox Corporation by Harris Interactive, polled 2,180 adults between Feb. 17-19, 2010.

Only 16 percent of U.S. adults who have a healthcare provider/institution have been approached by their healthcare provider/institution to discuss converting to digital records, according to a release about the survey.

"Ultimately, it is the patient that controls the effectiveness of treatment, his or her overall health, and perceived quality of care," said Martin Reiser, manager, government affairs, Xerox. "Providers can help patients and their families become well informed participants in their own care and understand how EHRs will help them get more out of the healthcare system."

Because patients are not well informed about EHRs, they have little knowledge on how the switch can benefit them, the survey found.

Respondents ranked patients as last among groups that will benefit from digital records, reporting they have the least to gain (26 percent).

"There is much for the patient to gain when records go digital, it's just a matter of communicating and demonstrating the benefits – like improved patient safety," said Mara Bryant, associate vice president, organizational excellence and health information management, White Memorial Medical Center, a not-for-profit, teaching hospital in Los Angeles.

The survey also found that a discussion between providers and their patients about a digital switch is important in easing any concerns they may have about the security of their information.

Seventy-nine percent of adults who have concerns about digital medical records report stolen records to be their number one concern with regard to EHRs, followed closely by misuse of information (69 percent) and lost or damaged records (68 percent).

"Providers can ease this fear by discussing the security precautions taken to safeguard against data breaches," said John B. Jones, vice president, healthcare providers, Xerox. "By arming Americans with information on EHR basics, we can prevent some of the influence of the media hype cycle around potential security risks."

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