Survey: Docs, patients on the same page when it comes to IT priorities

By Molly Merrill
11:08 AM
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Increasing electronic access to patient records, support for meaningful use incentives and privacy safeguards are some of the health IT priorities that doctors and patients can agree on, according to a national survey released Monday by the Markle Foundation.
 
The Markle Survey of Health in a Networked Life compares the core values of the general public and physicians – referred to here also as patients, based on their opinions as consumers of healthcare – on deployment of information technology in healthcare. 

"Doctors and patients agree on the importance of putting accurate information in their hands to improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of health care," said Markle President Zoë Baird.

"A surprising 74 percent of doctors say they want to be able to share patient information with other professionals electronically. As medical professionals shift from paper records to electronic systems, this survey shows that the public and physicians overwhelmingly agree that we need to measure the payoff from investments in information technology in terms of better health and more cost-efficient care," said Baird.

Agreement between doctors and the public was strongest on requirements to ensure that new federal health IT incentives will be well spent.

"Roughly 80 percent majorities of both the public and doctors agreed that it's important to require participating hospitals and doctors to share information to better coordinate care, cut unnecessary costs and reduce medical errors," said Carol Diamond, MD, managing director at the New York-based nonprofit foundation.

"By the same overwhelming margin, four in five doctors and patients expressed the importance of privacy protections for online medical records, an expectation we have repeatedly found on the part of the public in our previous surveys," Diamond said. "They also agree on the importance of measuring progress. This survey is a powerful indication that the public and physicians alike want investments in health IT to come with accountability."

Key findings of the Markle Survey of Health in a Networked Life:

  • Among the doctors, 74 percent would prefer computer-based means of sharing patient information with each other. (Only 17 percent of doctors predominantly use such means today.)
  • Nearly half (47 percent) of the doctors would prefer computer-based means of sharing records with their patients. (Only 5 percent do so today.)
  • Seventy-four percent of doctors said patients should be able to share their information electronically with their doctors and other practitioners.
  • Among the public, 10 percent reported currently having an electronic personal health record (PHR) – up from 3 percent who reported having one in Markle's 2008 survey.
  • Roughly two of three of both groups (70 percent of the public and 65 percent of the doctors) agreed that patients should be able to download their personal health information online.
  • Seventy percent of the public said patients should get a written or online summary after each doctor visit, but only 36 percent of the doctors agreed. (Only 4 percent of doctors say that they currently provide all their patients a summary after every visit).

"Our past surveys show that most US adults believe personal health records that include copies of their own medical information would help them improve their health and communicate better with health professionals," said Josh Lemieux, director of personal Health Technology at Markle. "With this survey, we find an increase in PHR use and learn that roughly two in three doctors agree that patients should have the option of online access to their personal health information. The survey also confirms that having modern information tools comes with expectations for privacy protections."

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