A look at how the customer experience with electronic health records can be improved.

Curated by Gregory Pings, content marketing, Xerox. (Portions of this article were previously reported in HealthBiz Decoded.)

Three-quarters of patients believe electronic health records will improve their care, however only one-third actually want their medical records to be digital.

EHR Nurse and PatientThat statistic comes from an August 2013 survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults that was conducted by Harris Interactive, the fourth such annual breakdown of the consumer experience with health IT.

As the Affordable Care Act gained momentum over the past four years, consumer opinion on electronic health records seems to have held steady. Over the same period, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology reported that 85.2 percent of hospitals have purchased a certified EHR system, with 44.4 percent achieving basic adoption of the system.

Patient Perspective

Why haven’t patient attitudes shifted at the same rate? The answer may lie in the numbers: The survey revealed that only 29 percent of doctors have actually talked to their patients  about electronic health records. Only 19 percent of adults are currently able to view their medical records online.

But that will soon change, because the law requires that patients be able to access their medical records via an online patient portal soon after an appointment. In fact, to earn certain financial incentives from the federal government in 2014, doctors must not only make it possible for patients to see their records, but also have at least 5 percent of their patients actually take advantage of that opportunity.

“Patients will soon have more access to their personal health information than ever before, but they need to be educated by providers on how this will empower them to take charge of their own care,” said Charles Fred, president of healthcare provider solutions at Xerox.

Patients do seem to believe that digitized medical records have advantages: 62 percent said EHRs will save money, and 73 percent believe they will improve the quality of their provider’s service. But 83 percent “have concerns,” primarily about security.

So, there lies the conundrum – patient concerns, government directives, and a lot to address in a very short period of time. This underscores the importance of communications between provider and patient: Now is a good time for doctors and patients to start the conversation about digital records. This two-page information sheet from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology can get you started.