Though their direct experience with electronic medical records is limited, U.S. health care consumers show strong interest in utilizing them further, according to a new national survey about Americans' awareness of, and acceptance towards, health information technology released today at the "Health IT: Unlocking the Potential" summit in Washington, D.C.
The survey, which was conducted by StrategyOne, an independent public opinion research company, on behalf of Kaiser Permanente, found that American adults favor providers (51 percent over 17 percent) and insurance carriers (68 percent over 16 percent) who use electronic medical records over those who do not.
It confirms what past surveys have found that large numbers of Americans are seeking out general health information online through Web sites such as Web MD. It also shows that those online searches are increasingly focusing on the location and management of personal health information. And while approximately one in 10 (12 percent) of Americans currently review their personal medical records on their health insurance company's Web site, over half say they would like to be able to check claims and coverage (56 percent) or access personal records (51 percent) electronically in the future.
"It is clear that Americans are ready to enter a digital health care age," said George Halvorson, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc.
American adults overwhelmingly believe (at 72 percent) that a computer system is more efficient than a paper system when it comes to managing medical records. But there is still some ambiguity about the relative security of electronic medical records compared to paper records. Forty seven percent of Americans say paper is more secure, compared to 42 percent who believe electronic records are more secure.
However, nearly three in four Americans (73 percent) believe the benefits of electronic records, such as better care in emergencies and reduction in medical errors, outweigh any potential privacy risks.
While interest in this technology is clearly high, not enough information is being shared with patients about its value to their own health care. Over half of those surveyed (57 percent) did not recall seeing, hearing or reading about electronic records before being surveyed.
Myrl Weinberg, president of the National Health Council, believes that patient awareness of the benefits of electronic medical and health records "will be the key to wider adoption." "The more familiar patients get with this technology, the more they will see its relevance to their own lives."