Divide between Patients and Doctors on Medical Records

As Presidential efforts to collect more personal medical data get off the ground, a new survey by Accenture found that the divide between U.S. consumers and doctors who believe that patients should have full access to their own electronic health records is growing .

Survey on Patient Interest in Medical Records

Since a survey from two years ago the difference of opinions between patients and doctors on patient access to electronic health records (EHRs) has grown – with patients now five times as likely as doctors to believe that patients should have full access to their records.

While the findings show that the number of consumers who believe they should have full access to their records has increased over the past two years—from 84 percent in 2014 to 92 percent today – the number of doctors who shared that belief dropped significantly, from 31 percent to 18 percent, during the same period.

The Accenture survey also found that most consumers (77 percent) want to see exactly what the doctor sees – not a summary. However, significantly more consumers are likely to access their EHR to stay informed than they are to help with making medical decisions (41 percent vs. 6 percent). The areas cited most often by consumers for using their EHRs to manage their health include having access to lab results (41 percent) and having access to their physician’s notes about the visit (24 percent).

Consumers have strong views on who should access their EHR data. While three-fourths view an EHR as a tool for their primary doctor, fewer than 1 in 30 consumers believe that an employer or government organization should have access to their records (each cited by only 3 percent of respondents), and fewer than 1 in 10 (9 percent) believe that a retail clinic should have access to their records. The results were part of a seven-country survey of roughly 8,000 consumers, including 2,225 in the United States.

Obama Administration announces partnership to coordinate data sharing

Fighting for patient access, the Obama administration announced Monday that technology companies, hospital systems and doctors’ groups have agreed to take steps to make electronic health records easier for consumers to access and use.

While nearly all hospitals and most doctors’ offices have now gone digital, those systems often don’t talk to each other, limiting their usefulness to patients. The latest initiative is meant to speed removal of technological bottlenecks, but it’s unclear if it will lead to breakthroughs. The administration needs to make things happen fast, since President Barack Obama leaves office in less than a year.

Taxpayers have ponied up about $27 billion in subsidies to encourage the adoption of electronic medical records by hospitals and doctors’ offices. But the results so far have fallen short of the data-driven transformation that proponents envisioned. With new personal health applications for mobile devices hitting the market, there’s a renewed push to clear obstacles rooted in different technologies and clashing competitive priorities among vendors and health care providers.

The agreement announced Monday covers 16 technology companies active in the health care arena, together representing about 90 percent of hospital electronic records used nationwide.

They have pledged to:

— Improve consumer access. Theoretically, patients would be able to easily access their records from one provider and transfer them to another. That second provider would be able to seamlessly import the earlier records into its system. Think of the retiree from the Midwest who winters in Arizona and runs into an unexpected medical problem.

— Stop blocking health information sharing. A report last year from DeSalvo’s office found that some health care organizations were blocking the sharing of information outside their group. At the time, she called the practice “fundamentally incompatible with efforts to transform the nation’s health system.” Some experts say that’s already changing with greater use of something called “direct exchange,” a secure messaging pathway between registered medical providers.

— Put standards for secure, efficient digital communications into effect. That would allow different systems to more easily talk with each other.

Joining the technology companies are major hospital systems such as Hospital Corporation of America and Tenet Healthcare, as well as insurers like Kaiser Permanente. The American Medical Association, the American Society of Clinical Oncology and other medical groups are also participating.

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