Consumers embrace health IT, docs lag behind

By Erin McCann
10:06 AM

When it comes to willingness to interact and engage with health information technology, consumers far surpass their physicians, according to the findings of Thursday’s Optum Institute and Harris Interactive national survey.

Officials say the survey – which includes responses from 4,270 physicians, consumers and hospital executives – provides new insights into U.S. consumers’ willingness to go online to view their medical records and engage with care providers.

Among the findings, officials point out that while 70 percent of physicians surveyed have basic electronic medical record (EMR) capabilities, only 40 percent of physicians say they have the capability to engage with patients via email or provide patients with access to their health records.

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Findings also suggest that consumers are ready to use technology-enabled features today, as three out of four consumers say they are willing to go online to access their medical records, and more than 60 percent want to communicate with their doctors via email or the Internet.

Survey officials also note the readiness of not only the younger generations to go online, but also seniors, as more than half of that age group surveyed (57 percent) indicated a willingness to go online to manage their health and communicate with their providers.

“Nearly two decades after email has become widespread, most patients say they want to – but still can’t – email their care provider,” said Simon Stevens, chairman of the Optum Institute. “This research underlines the need for health information systems that can talk to each other, and that allow patients to access their own health information.”

The survey also highlights a growing number of consumers who want online mobile access to health services. Survey findings show approximately two-thirds of consumers are either interested or very interested in receiving appointment reminders by email, with 40 percent wanting text reminders. The young, minorities and Medicaid beneficiaries constitute the majority of this 40 percent. This compares to the 28 percent who want appointment reminders via snail mail.

Data from the Optum Institute Survey: Meaningful Patient Engagement

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Moreover, 84 percent of consumers surveyed would like online prescription refills, and some 75 percent would prefer to receive test results and access their records online.

“While hospitals and physicians have made considerable progress in adopting new technologies, our research underscores the pressing need to increase the level of patient-facing technology to create strong, two-way patient-physician communication,” said Carol Simon, director of the Optum Institute.