Docs believe EHRs safer than paper, but patients still ambivalent

By Mike Miliard
10:39 AM

A new survey finds a majority of physicians believing that electronic health records are safer than their paper counterparts, citing accessibility of data as the top safety benefit.  But patient perception remains mixed with nearly half of respondents believing paper records are safer.

Conducted by GfK Roper on behalf of Practice Fusion, the survey polled patients about their views on the safety of EHR versus paper charts; a separate survey posed the same questions to medical professionals.

More than half of physicians (54 percent) agreed that EHRs are safer, with just 18 percent of respondents selecting paper as the safer option.

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For those doctors who said EHRs are safer, access to records when needed was cited as the top benefit by 63 percent.

[See also: Paper records are 'incomplete, inaccurate and inaccessible'.]

Of physicians who believe paper the safer option, 36 percent said physical records are more secure because they're less likely to be hacked or lost.

Patient views on medical records are mixed, with 47 percent believing that paper is safer and 39 percent believing EHRs are safer.

Of patients who said EHRs are safer, more than three-quarters (77 percent) "strongly agreed" that being able to access records when needed is the greatest benefit of EHRs over paper. But for those who say paper charts were safer, 59 percent agree or strongly agree that those records are the more private option, and allow for more control over who sees them.

[See also: EHR safety reporting system launched.]

"The medical community is rejecting paper charts and embracing technology," said Robert Rowley, MD, Practice Fusion's medical director. "As a practicing physician using an EHR, I understand the benefits and some of the concerns both physicians and patients have. With more education about why EHRs are safer than paper charts, we'll see even more physicians switching from paper and patients demanding a digital solution."

The Practice Fusion patient survey was conducted October 21-23 via telephone. Interviews were conducted from among a nationally representative sample of 1,006 adults age 18 or older. The margin of error on weighted data is plus or minus three percentage points for the full sample.

The physician survey was conducted online on October 28, using the same questions with a sample of 1,220 medical professionals.

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