Healthcare News & Insights

83% of patients are worried about electronic records

147726878 (1)Healthcare organizations are quickly adopting EHR systems, but many patients are still uncomfortable about their information being contained in electronic records. Here’s why — and what providers can do to help. 

There are some aspects of EHR adoption that patients are happy with. For example, most people say they want to the chance to access their own records online, and many would even change doctors in order to do so.

However, overall, the majority of patients still have concerns about the implications of turning their paper charts into digital records, according to a recent survey from Xerox.

In fact, only 32% of the 2,009 U.S. adults surveyed said they want their data in an EHR.

The majority (83%) said they have concerns about electronic records. Despite the rapid increase in EHR adoption over the past few years, patients aren’t getting any more comfortable with the digitization of their records. In the same survey last year, 85% of respondents said they were worried, while 83% in 2011 and 82% in 2010 had concerns.

What are they worried about? These are some of the primary reasons patients have:

Even if patients are concerned, most facilities have already switched to EHR systems or will do so soon. Fortunately, there are a few things doctors and hospital management can do to make their patients more comfortable with electronic records:

1. Have doctors communicate with patients

The No. 1 reason so many patients are worried about EHR adoption, according to Xerox: Their doctors haven’t talked to them about the switch to electronic records.

Only 29% of the patients surveyed said they’ve had a physician talk to them about EHRs. While that’s a jump from 18% who said the same thing two years ago, that still means many patients have had their records digitized without hearing anything about it from their doctor. Experts say physicians should be the ones to tell people about the change and explain how both the patient and the organization will benefit.

Fortunately, most patients already understand that there’s a good reason to adopt EHR systems — 62% said they think electronic records will lower overall healthcare costs. Doctors can also tell patients how those systems will help improve care, prevent mistakes and allow patients to be more involved in their own health care.

2. Give patients the tools they want

While people have a number of concerns with EHR systems, there are also some features they would like to take advantage of, such as patient portals that allow them to view records, make appointments and complete other tasks online.

Patients who have used those tools tend to be satisfied with them. In a recent study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, researchers surveyed patients who had been using an online portal that gave them access to their doctors’ notes. After using the system for one year, 37% of patients admitted they were concerned about the impact on their privacy — however, 99% said they wanted to continue using the system.

To get patients on board with the switch, it may help to ask people what features they would like to see implemented and then try to offer those.

3. Implement technology wisely

Patients’ perceptions about health IT can be shaped by simple things, such as how exam rooms are organized. For example, if a doctor must sit at a workstation far from the patient in order to enter data, patients may think the system is getting in the way of their interactions with the doctor.

Some keys to keep in mind:

  • Look for EHR software that’s easy to use so doctors can limit the amount of time it takes to complete tasks as much as possible.
  • Set up computers so that doctors can look at patients while working on them.
  • Consider using tablets instead of PCs to mimic the way a doctor would use a paper chart.
  • Train doctors to use technology to increase interaction, for example by using the computer to display imaging results.

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