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Survey: Majority of Patients See Benefit of Electronic Sharing of Medical Records

September 30, 2015
by Heather Landi
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Nearly three-quarters of patients are comfortable with the electronic sharing of their medical records and see the value in increased data accessibility, according to a survey from Software Advice.

As interoperability between disparate electronic health records (EHRs) systems is a critical issue within health IT, Software Advice, which offers reviews and research on software applications, surveyed hundreds of patients about how they share their health information with their providers and their perspectives on interoperability and health information exchange (HIE).

Based on the patient survey, only 39 percent of patients who saw two or more healthcare providers in the past two years reported that their health providers directly exchanged their medical records and 25 percent said they delivered a paper copy to the other provider themselves.

Almost half of the patients surveyed (46 percent) stated that they would prefer that the practitioners treating them directly exchange records and only 21 percent favored in-person delivery of their medical records.

 “Patients play a key role in moving the dial in health care innovation,” Jitin Asnaani, the executive director for CommonWell Health Alliance, a nonprofit trade association of health IT companies working on interoperability initiatives, said in a statement in the survey report. Patients have the power to “demand a higher bar” when it comes to health data accessibility, Asnaani said.

The Software Advice survey report also outlines factors that create challenges to EHR interoperability, such as resistance from some vendors, prohibitively high data exchange fees and lack of incentives to develop interoperability.

As certain states have robust HIE systems in place, the survey also specifically addressed HIEs in which providers can sign up to access a Web-based application containing the electronic records of consenting patients, regardless of the EHR systems used in the various participating practices.

The survey asked patients how comfortable they would be with an electronic version of their health records being immediately accessible online by any authorized healthcare provider in their state, and 73 percent of patients indicated they felt “very” or “moderately comfortable” with their health records being accessible online. The survey report authors concluded that this indicates patients see value in interoperability.

The patient survey results also revealed that patients have privacy and security concerns about electronic sharing of their medical records. Twenty-seven percent of patients responded that they felt “minimally” or “not at all comfortable” with a statewide HIE-type system, with the greatest percentage of patients (50 percent) citing concerns about potential privacy violations. Forty-four percent of patients cited concerns about potential data security breaches.

The survey results also found that three out of four were not aware of whether their state operates an HIE.

The survey report authors also recommended that physicians communicate with patients about interoperability such as addressing patients’ security and privacy concerns as well as addressing policies and technologies safeguarding patient information.

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