Healthcare News & Insights

3 ways to ease patient fears about health IT

A new survey says most patients are confident that electronic health records (EHRs) will help improve the quality of their care. Some security concerns remain, but here’s how doctors can help. 

The majority of patients feel that EHRs are having a positive impact in health care, according to a recent survey from the National Partnership for Women and Families. That includes patients with doctors currently using EHR systems and those who’d like their doctors to make the switch.

Among the patients surveyed, 59% had a regular doctor who used electronic records, and 41% did not. Patients in both categories saw value in EHRs. According to the survey of nearly 2,000 patients:

  1. 75% of patients whose doctors use paper records said it would be valuable for them to switch to EHRs
  2. 80% of patients with EHRs say electronic systems improve doctors’ timely access to information; 80% also said those systems help doctors better manage conditions and treatments; and 65% said they help avoid medical errors
  3. 73% of the patients in the EHR said electronic record systems have a positive impact on their care overall; just 26% of the others said the same thing about paper records.

Despite the positive attitudes patients have toward EHRs, many of them have concerns about the security of their electronic health information — 59% of respondents with EHRs and 66% of paper-record patients said electronic records will lead to more health information being lost or stolen.

The issue isn’t that patients don’t trust their doctors, as more than 90% of respondents in both categories have faith in their doctors to protect health information. That means doctors can be big help in talking to patients and helping ease fears about the security of their electronic information.

Here are three ways doctors can help improve their patients’ faith in the security of EHR systems:

1. Explain security policies and procedures

Patients surveyed reported they’re more likely to trust their doctors to protect information if they know they have strong security policies in place. Doctors can help explain policies and procedures, and how the organization complies with privacy laws.

2. Talk to them about how the system works

Patients also reported that they want to know more about how their information is collected and used. Doctors can offer more information to patients about their EHR systems, as just 13% of patients with doctors using EHRs said how the system works was explained very well to them.

3. Offer more interactive features

Another way healthcare organizations can improve patients’ opinions of health IT: Offer online access to health records. Patients surveyed who could access their records were confident about how EHRs can help them personally and more trusting of their doctors to protect their privacy. Also, of those with online access, most (80%) use it.

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