Attitudes of Americans Regarding Personal Health Records

The Markle Foundation recently released the Attitudes of Americans Regarding Personal Health Records and Nationwide Electronic Health Information Exchange research report. It’s numbers are bit lower than the numbers from the 2004 Harris survey regarding interest in personal health records.

I didn’t find the new Markle report terribly revealing nor actionable but I am glad to see that Americans would start to use personal health records if all the stars were aligned properly. More than these reports, I find survey data about online banking a more useful barometer.

Online Banking Statistics

I think that because the financial and banking industry has demonstrated that we as Americans will use the Internet to help protect and provide online usuage of one our most important assets (our wealth) we would be more than willing to do it for an even more important asset (our health). However, unlike banks which were already computerized generally and are using the web to provide access to those computer records most of our physicians and hospitals do not have that capability. And, online banking and managing online financial records actually improves profit margins and increases revenues for banks; this is something that can not be said for medical records access yet because medical records are still paper based in healthcare institutions.

The fluffy Markle survey implies:

More than seven out of 10 Americans support the creation of a nationwide health information exchange or network for doctors and patients.

Americans believe an electronic exchange of health information would enhance quality and increase efficiency of the health care system.

The majority of Americans saying they would support the creation of a secure online personal health record service, there is strong evidence that Americans would actually use this type of service.

A couple of interesting tidbits from the Sep 19, 2005 New York Times article “Doctors Join to Promote Electronic Record Keeping”:

…last week, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, government and private health care officials were rushing to build an electronic database of prescription drug records for hundreds of thousands of people who lost their records in the storm. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said the chaos wreaked by Katrina “powerfully demonstrated the need for electronic health records.

…fewer than 5 percent of physicians nationally are using a computerized system as part of patient care, said Dr. Thomas J. Handler, a research director at the Gartner market research group. For most doctors who work in groups of five or fewer, the portion is probably 3 percent or less, he said.

Here’s what Dr. Charles Safran, Chairman of the American Medical Informatics Association, says about personal health records:

In our country, patients are the most under-utilized resource, and they have the most at stake. They want to be involved and they can be involved. Their participation will lead to better medical outcomes at lower costs with dramatically higher patient /customer satisfaction. We should remember that the real goal of improved health information systems is not better hospitals or better physician practices, but better quality of health care and healthier consumers.

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