Survey: Public unsure of EHRs

Although recent studies show that medical practitioners are warming to the idea of electronic health records, a survey indicates that a campaign may be necessary to change the public’s negative perceptions of EHRs.

The survey, conducted late last year by IDC's Health Industry Insights, shows that a majority of the public may not even know about EHRs. And there's a general fear that privacy and security protections are too weak to guarantee the proper use of personal health information.

"Most people don't understand the provisions the government is trying to build into [the infrastructure of] EHRs," said Marc Holland, program director of health care provider research at Health Industry Insights. "But even with educated consumers who do know something about the issue, there are still concerns about privacy."

The survey of 1,095 health care consumers revealed that about 70 percent of them didn't even know about the U.S. government's initiative to make EHRs generally available by 2014.

Regardless of the level of awareness, 86 percent said they were somewhat or very concerned about the health industry’s ability to protect the privacy of health information. About 44 percent of the survey respondents ranked overcoming these privacy concerns as the biggest challenge to meeting the 2014 deadline.

Still, a majority of health consumers think EHRs will improve the quality of care that primary care providers offer, although only 33 percent believed it will reduce costs.

"This is a major public relations issue, and it's incumbent on both the government and industry to get the message to [health] consumers that they are aware of their concerns, that information will be confidential and that they will have control over who gets to see that information," Holland said.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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