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How Do Consumers View EMRs?

August 5, 2013
by John DeGaspari
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Consumers who use EMRs are more likely to stay in the same health system if the needed to find a new doctor, according to survey

A recent online consumer survey found that electronic medical records (EMRs) are an important factor in patient satisfaction with their doctors, as well as their choice of healthcare providers. The survey was conducted by Deerfield, Ill.-based Aeffect, Inc., a research and consulting firm, and 88 Brand Partners, a marketing firm in Chicago. The survey participants were between 25 and 55 years of age, had some type of health insurance, seen a physician in the last three years and have a regular doctor.

About 24 percent of Americans surveyed are currently using EMRs to check their test results, order prescription refills and make appointments. Another 52 percent say they are interested in using EMRs but currently are not accessing these systems, for a variety of reasons. Almost 50 percent of patients taking EMR access into consideration when choosing a healthcare provider. 

Those patients who have used EMRs are significantly more satisfied with their doctors overall (78 percent versus 68 percent). They also express higher satisfaction across multiple specific dimensions of care, such as ease of access to information and clarity and thoroughness of communication, according to the EMR Patient Impact Study. Those who do use EMRs feel a stronger loyalty to their doctors, they also believe they receive better quality care (82 percent). EMR users believe they engage in clearer and more responsive communications with their physicians, and can gain access to information easier than non EMR users.

“The study findings clearly indicate a strong link between EMR users and their confidence in the quality of healthcare they receive,” Tamara O'Shaughnessy, Vice President, Aeffect, said in a prerpared statement. “There is solid evidence that the investment providers continue to make in EMR systems is likely to put adopters at a competitive advantage and yield dividends beyond the expected operational efficiencies—namely it will enhance patient loyalty and satisfaction,” she added.

Among those who regularly use EMRs are primary caregivers to adult family members. The study reveals that one in three caregivers have used an EMR, either on the web or via a mobile device, compared to 21 percent of non-caregivers. Caregivers are using EMRs to provide assistance with medical appointments, or making medical decisions for their loved one. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 29 percent of adults provide care to someone who is ill, disabled or aged.

Consumers who prefer their doctor to use an electronic chart cited numerous reasons including: access to medical records (40 percnet); accuracy/better record keeping (18 percent); and coordination of care and information sharing (e.g., in case of emergency) (17 percent).

EMR utilization is higher among consumers who are younger, live in the Western part of the United States, have higher levels of education, and provide care to an adult family member. An estimated 34 percent of residents of Western states report having tried an EMR. 

Twenty-three percent of those surveyed have no idea what type of medical records their health care provider maintains. 

Consumers do not believe that paper charts are more secure than EMRs (28% agree). However, nearly 40 percent believe that electronic medical records are more accurate than paper charts.

Those who have used an EMR are most likely to say they were influenced to try one by a recommendation from their physician (40 percent). Receiving a letter or other communication from their provider is also influential (25 percent). 

The study revealed that despite the many EMR capabilities, the technology is not being fully utilized by EMR users—particularly tracking immunizations or screenings and completing paperwork prior to appointments. Reasons for lack of utilization of these services may be that patients are not aware of or do not know how to use these EMR tools, or that their provider’s EMR system does not offer them. 

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