Consumers willing to pay for health IT

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A slim majority of Americans say they are willing to pay at least $5 a month to have their health records kept online, according to a new survey by consulting and technology services firm Accenture.

The survey of 519 consumers found that 93 percent expect electronic medical records to improve the quality of care, and almost as many said the e-records would reduce treatment errors in hospitals. Three-quarters believe that e-records could reduce health care costs overall, and about the same number thought patients would spend less time waiting in doctors’ offices and emergency rooms.

The survey also found that 54 percent of consumers were concerned about the privacy and security of their paper medical records, and about the same number said they believed e-records are more secure than paper.

Accenture officials said the support for e-medical records was greater than they had expected. Dr. Manuel Lowenhaupt, a physician who is a partner in Accenture’s health and life sciences practice, said it showed consumers are sophisticated about the technology, and enthusiastic about it. He said consumer acceptance would be “an essential ingredient for success” as the nation moves to reduce paperwork in health care.

Although the survey did not ask about government’s role in the transition to online medical records, Lowenhaupt said, “there’s no question that the rising consumer excitement is an important element for the federal government” as it plans its health information technology strategy.

Asked why Americans are coming to accept the shift to e-records, Lowenhaupt said “the consumer is getting more and more aware of how technology can serve them” in a variety of areas. He also credited “very nice articulation by our leaders at the federal level, from the president on down” of the value of health IT.

He cautioned that the $5 per month online record storage price endorsed by the respondents was not necessarily a realistic figure. The responses showed that people are attributing value to health IT, he said.

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