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Patients Value EHRs, Want Even More Access

A growing number of consumers are embracing EHRs, and the significant boost in online access to health information is increasing patient engagement in their care. In the last year, more than four in five patients with online access to their health records (86%) used their online records at least once—and more than one-half (55%) used them three or more times a year. Those are among the findings from a study released recently by the National Partnership for Women & Families.

"Engaging Patients and Families: How Consumers Value and Use Health IT" follows up on the organization's groundbreaking 2011 national survey that assessed consumer views toward EHRs and HIT. "To date, the public discourse on health IT has largely focused on the views of doctors, hospitals and vendors," says National Partnership President Debra L. Ness. "It is crucial to hear what patients have to say about how they experience EHRs and health IT as they receive care and manage their health—and that's the focus of Engaging Patients."

The new survey offers an in-depth look at how patients value and use HIT, and which functions are important to them. The National Partnership report provides seven strategies to engage patients and families more effectively in their care. It is being released five years after the HITECH Act of 2009 was enacted and the Medicare and Medicaid EHR meaningful use incentive program began—and on the heels of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology releasing its 2015 Strategic Plan. 

"As the National Partnership's new data show, more consumers are accessing, sharing, and using their health information, underlining the importance of interoperability of health data and systems. We are focusing our efforts in these areas to empower individuals to address not only gaps in information exchange and interoperability, but also enable them to take steps to improve their health and better manage their health needs," says National Coordinator for HIT Karen DeSalvo, MD.

By repeating questions from 2011, the new survey identifies trends in patient attitudes, reflecting progress from the launch of the meaningful use and other federal and state programs to substantial adoption and use of EHRs today. Its new questions yield data on major new topics in discussion for HIT policies and programs, including patient-generated health data, patient care plans, and mobile access. The survey includes oversamples of Latino/Hispanic, black/African American, and Asian American adults.

Among key findings are the following:

"The views of patients must be front and center as we take the next steps in implementing health IT," says Sandra R. Hernández, president and CEO of the California HealthCare Foundation, which funded the new survey. "As we as a nation become more diverse, the imperative to address disparities grows. We need the kind of robust information EHRs provide and the genuine patient engagement they can facilitate."

The new report offers guidance for enhancing the effectiveness of EHR adoption in improving the quality and cost effectiveness of care and guiding delivery system reform. It offers recommendations for multiple communities, including providers, policymakers, and employers.

Harris Poll conducted the online survey of 2,045 adults who indicated that they have a primary doctor and their doctor keeps medical and health information in electronic or paper format. The survey was conducted between April 22 and May 7, 2014.

"Every step forward in health IT is one step closer to achieving the 'Triple Aim': improving care, improving health, and reducing costs," says Mark Savage, the National Partnership's director of HIT policy and programs. "Engaging Patients and Families shows that we have made progress in leaps and bounds in just a few short years. But clearly there are barriers still to overcome, and this report breaks down policy implications for the meaningful use program as well as broader delivery system initiatives that must be carried out. And it's an important reminder that meeting the needs of patients and families must always be at the core of health IT design and implementation."  

Source: National Partnership for Women & Families