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Health insurance coverage is a major concern for many
Americans and a major issue for the US presidential candidates this year.
Electronic medical records (EMRs)—also known as electronic health records
(EHRs) or personal health records (PHRs)—are a big part of many proposed plans to cut
costs and streamline delivery of healthcare.
While acceptance of EMRs is growing, Americans and their
physicians still have some reservations.
Few US adults even have an EMR. Just 27% of the 2,153 respondents in a November 2007 survey by
Harris Interactive for the
Wall Street Journal said they did.
The majority of that group said their doctor
maintained the EMR, with only 4% of respondents saying they maintained their own.
Having an EMR gives patients more confidence that their
doctor knows their medical history but does not guarantee it. Among the
respondents who had an EMR, half said they were “very confident” and 39% said
they were “somewhat confident” that their doctor had a complete picture of
their medical history. A surprising 11% were not very or not at all confident—and
confidence in better medical care is an important factor in filling out the
electronic forms in the first place.
Although a clear majority
of respondents either agreed “strongly” or “somewhat” with statements regarding decreasing medical errors, reducing costs, improving the
quality of care and ability to share information among medical professionals,
50% also agreed that EMRs made it harder to ensure a patient’s privacy. A
significant portion of respondents—between 21% and 30%—did not feel
confident enough to answer the questions.
However, electronic access comes at a price, mostly for
doctors: 91% of respondents want access to their EMR maintained within their
doctor’s system. And now that they know their doctor has Internet access, 77%
want to schedule appointments online and 75% want the ability to e-mail their
doctor about healthcare issues at no additional charge. Less than half—43%—think doctors should be compensated for e-mailing patients.
Having an EMR quells most patients’ privacy concerns, the
survey found. Nearly three-quarters of the respondents who had an EMR said the
benefits outweighed the risks to privacy, compared with 56% of respondents who
didn’t have an EMR.
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