Electronic Medical Records: A Clean Bill of Health
Most U.S. consumers believe that electronic medical records (EMR) can provide valuable benefits, especially during medical emergencies, and can improve overall medical care. Also, they are less concerned with security issues than in other industries, according to the results of a survey released by Accenture this week. Ninety-three percent of the 500 U.S. health care consumers surveyed believe that electronic medical records can improve the quality of care, while 92 percent believe that they can reduce the number of treatment errors in hospitals. In addition, 65 percent responded they are concerned that they might be rendered unconscious in an accident and unable to report vital information to emergency personnel. Ninety-three percent said they would support emergency room doctors having access to EMRs.
"This awareness is relatively new, and we see the potential for an environment where consumers will begin to exert more influence over the speed at which these systems are adopted across the health care arena," says Lewis Reed, a partner in Accenture's health and life sciences practice. "Our research indicated that consumers have become aware of the potential benefits of electronic medical records, and we believe this shift creates opportunities for health care providers and health plans to take steps toward implementing electronic medical record systems."
John Quinn, a partner in Accenture's Health and Life Sciences practice, contends that increasing public awareness played a large part in the percentage of respondents who feel electronic medical records would be beneficial to the healthcare industry. "President Bush addressed the subject during his State of the Union...there are medical clinics [that] now advertise that they have electronic medical records."
Despite the string of recent electronic security breaches, the survey found that privacy and cost issues related to electronic medical records are not as great of a concern to consumers as others might believe. More than half (54 percent) of respondents said they are concerned about the privacy and security of their paper records, and 55 percent said they believe that electronic records are more secure than paper. This is in contrast to other industries like financial services where customers cite security as a more prevalent issue. "I think the main reason for this is that people feel secure knowing that a thief would like to steal somebody's money, [but] I really don't know the value in stealing somebody's medical history. There's really not a whole lot interesting there," Quinn says.
In addition, 52 percent of respondents said they are willing to pay at least $5 per month to have their medical records stored in an electronic format. Quinn says this is representative of the advantages that healthcare providers gain by storing their patients' medical records electronically. "There are some doctors who have more than one office and can't see patients at both because they don't have their records at both. Electronic records are quick to access, can be cross reference, etc. So much of the rest of the healthcare industry is computerized, it makes sense that this is where medical records should go."
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