Consumers Don't Want E-Health Records

Nearly 80% of consumers surveyed earlier this year said they're concerned about electronic health records (EHRs) because their personal information might be stolen by hackers or lost.

The online survey, conducted by Harris Interactive for Xerox Corp. in February and released last week, included 2,720 U.S. adults, the majority of whom felt that their personal information could be misused if kept in an EHR.

The No.1 concern: hackers.

"There's a lack of understanding about what EHRs are all about," said Paul Solverson, a partner with Xerox's strategic advisory services. "All the stereotypical concerns with ID theft encroaches into the healthcare field. Although there is a track record [of data loss] for breaches, they're far less from hackers and more from media at rest being lost, such as a laptop or file being transmitted by accident."

Solverson believes the source of consumer angst over EHRs is the healthcare industry doing a woefully inadequate job of informing patients about the technology, its benefits and how it will actually improve security around patient information.

"If patients had any idea today how accessible paper records are, I think they'd be astonished," he said.

Of those surveyed by Harris Interactive, 78% indicated they were concerned about hackers accessing EHRs; 64% said they were worried about the threat of lost, damaged or corrupted records; and 62% cited concerns over the misuse of electronic healthcare information.

Twenty-three percent of those surveyed believe patients have the least to gain from conversion to digital records.

"That's pretty cynical. And it shows a lack of understanding of EHRs and their ability to improve evidence-based medicine , error checking and electronic documentation and 24/7 access to information," Solverson said. "These are benefits not being communicated to patients."

Evidence-based medicine involves best practices that use evidence gained from the scientific method for medical decision-making. One of the main reasons the federal government is pushing the rollout of EHRs in healthcare facilities is to promote the use of evidence-based medicine by promoting the standardization of treatments.

Botsford Hospital in Farmington Hills, Mich., is launching its EHR system at the end of this year. The system will allow EHRs to electronically follow a patient as they move through different departments of the hospital.

"When a patient moves from the Emergency Center to Radiology or Critical Care, for example, their EHRs will be immediately available to the various caregivers, greatly increasing patient safety and quality of care," Dr. Paul LaCasse, president and CEO of Botsford Hospital said in a statement.

Perhaps more telling about the lack of education surrounding EHRs was that only 18% of those surveyed with a healthcare provider have been approached about converting their paper records to digital.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com .

Read more about health care in Computerworld's Health Care Topic Center.

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