Increasing electronic access to patient records, support for meaningful use incentives and privacy safeguards are some of the health IT priorities that doctors and patients can agree on, according to a national survey released Monday by the Zoe Baird President of the Markle Foundation.
The Markle Survey of Health in a Networked Life compares the core values of the general public and physicians – referred to here also as patients, based on their opinions as consumers of healthcare – on deployment of information technology in healthcare.
“Doctors and patients agree on the importance of putting accurate information in their hands to improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of health care,” said Markle President Zoë Baird.
“A surprising 74 percent of doctors say they want to be able to share patient information with other professionals electronically. As medical professionals shift from paper records to electronic systems, this survey shows that the public and physicians overwhelmingly agree that we need to measure the payoff from investments in information technology in terms of better health and more cost-efficient care,” said Baird.
“Roughly 80 percent majorities of both the public and doctors agreed that it’s important to require participating hospitals and doctors to share information to better coordinate care, cut unnecessary costs and reduce medical errors,” said Carol Diamond, MD, managing director at the New York-based nonprofit foundation.
“By the same overwhelming margin, four in five doctors and patients expressed the importance of privacy protections for online medical records, an expectation we have repeatedly found on the part of the public in our previous surveys,” Diamond said. “They also agree on the importance of measuring progress. This survey is a powerful indication that the public and physicians alike want investments in health IT to come with accountability.”
Key findings of the Markle Survey of Health in a Networked Life:
- Among the doctors, 74 percent would prefer computer-based means of sharing patient information with each other. (Only 17 percent of doctors predominantly use such means today.)
- Nearly half (47 percent) of the doctors would prefer computer-based means of sharing records with their patients. (Only 5 percent do so today.)
- Seventy-four percent of doctors said patients should be able to share their information electronically with their doctors and other practitioners.
- Among the public, 10 percent reported currently having an electronic personal health record (PHR) – up from 3 percent who reported having one in Markle’s 2008 survey.
- Roughly two of three of both groups (70 percent of the public and 65 percent of the doctors) agreed that patients should be able to download their personal health information online.
- Seventy percent of the public said patients should get a written or online summary after each doctor visit, but only 36 percent of the doctors agreed. (Only 4 percent of doctors say that they currently provide all their patients a summary after every visit).
“Our past surveys show that most US adults believe personal health records that include copies of their own medical information would help them improve their health and communicate better with health professionals,” said Josh Lemieux, director of personal Health Technology at Markle. “With this survey, we find an increase in PHR use and learn that roughly two in three doctors agree that patients should have the option of online access to their personal health information. The survey also confirms that having modern information tools comes with expectations for privacy protections.”
Other key findings from the Markle survey include:
- Majorities of 70 percent to 80 percent of both patients and doctors support privacy-protective practices, such as letting people see who has accessed their records, notifying people affected by information breaches, and giving people mechanisms to exercise choice and correct information.
- Majorities (65 percent of the public and 75 percent of doctors) agreed that it’s important to have a policy against the government collecting personally identifiable health information for health IT or healthcare quality-improvement programs.
- If there are safeguards to protect identity at least 68 percent of the public and 75 percent of the doctors expressed willingness to allow composite information to be used to detect outbreaks, bioterror attacks, and fraud, and to conduct research and quality and service improvement programs.
- Large majorities of the public (75 percent) and the doctors (73 percent) said it will be important to measure progress on improving healthcare quality and safety to ensure the public health IT investments will be well spent. Both groups (each at 69 percent) agreed on the importance of specific requirements to improve the nation’s health in areas like heart disease, obesity, diabetes and asthma.
- Many are unaware of the health IT incentives: 85 percent of the public and 36 percent of doctors describe themselves as not very or not at all familiar with the health IT incentives program, which makes subsidies available for doctors and hospitals to increase use of information technology.
“We all have a stake in making sure that information is protected and trusted so that it can be put to best use to improve our health,” Diamond said. “This survey shows that doctors and their patients share many of the same hopes and expectations for advancing health in a connected world.”
Knowledge Networks (KN) conducted the surveys between Aug. 10 and 26, 2010. The general population survey of 1,582 adults age 18 and older used KN’s KnowledgePanel, a probability-based panel of 50,000 individuals designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The survey of 779 physicians was conducted using KN’s Physicians Consulting Network (PCN), an invitation-only list of more than 45,000 practicing physicians.
Survey results are available here.