Consumer demand for healthcare IT 'never stronger,' survey shows

By Bernie Monegain
10:06 AM

Consumer appetite for electronic health records, online tools and services continues to grow, according to the results of the 2009 Deloitte Survey of Health Care Consumers.

While only 9 percent of consumers surveyed have an electronic personal health record, 42 percent are interested in establishing PHRs connected online to their physicians.

Fifty-five percent want the ability to communicate with their doctor via e-mail to exchange health information and get answers to questions.

Fifty-seven percent reported they'd be interested in scheduling appointments, buying prescriptions and completing other transactions online if their information is protected.

Technology that can facilitate consumer transactions with providers and health plans, such as integrated billing systems that make bill payment faster and more convenient, appeal to nearly half (47 percent) of consumers surveyed.

The survey of more than 4,000 U.S. consumers 18 and older was released at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's annual conference in Chicago last week. It's the second annual study examining healthcare consumers' attitudes, behaviors and unmet needs conducted by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.

"Consumers are increasingly embracing innovations that enhance self-care, convenience, personalization and control of personal health information," said Paul H. Keckley, executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. "Consumers want a bigger say in their healthcare decisions. Consumer demand for HIT and its potential impact on reforming the system has never been stronger."

Despite strong consumer demand, many are still concerned about the privacy and security of their medical information. Nearly four in 10 consumers surveyed (38 percent) are very concerned about the privacy and security of personal health information. Another 24 percent said they had no reservations about it. Women over the age of 65 and men between the ages of 18 and 24 were least averse to sharing personal health information online.

Women are also more likely than men to seek online access to doctors, medical records and tools. They are also more interested in using secure Web sites and slightly more trusting of the information they find about care and treatment through independent health-related Web sites, the study revealed.

"Information technologies that support consumers in becoming more informed decision-makers and purchasers of healthcare resources, and facilitate transactions in ways that improve efficiency and lower costs, have tremendous potential to improve our healthcare system," said Russ Rudish, vice chairman and U.S. industry leader of Deloitte LLP's healthcare provider industry group.

Additional findings from the survey:

  • Six in 10 endorse government establishment of standards for how medical information is collected, stored and exchanged.
  • Four in 10 (42 percent) favor increasing government funding and incentives to support the adoption of electronic medical records by doctors, hospitals and health plans (two in 10 oppose). Support is highest among Gen Y (44 percent); Gen X (43 percent); and seniors (43 percent).
  • Sixty-eight percent are interested in home or remote monitoring devices that permit them to monitor their conditions and electronically report it to their physicians; interest is particularly high among seniors (78 percent) and those with chronic conditions (75 percent).
  • Thirty percent of prescription medication users say they purchased medications online or through mail order in the previous 12 months; Medicaid enrollees were the most likely to report this (37 percent).
  • Forty-one percent of all consumers say they'd be likely to order medications online or by mail order if they were to develop a health condition that required regular medication.