Patients mostly accept EHRs but privacy worries remain

By | March 19, 2019

Dive Brief:

  • Despite acceptance of EHRs and the belief they improve or maintain quality of care, patients continue to have privacy concerns, a new Kaiser Family Foundation study shows.
  • More than half (54%) of respondents whose doctor uses an EHR said they are “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” that an unauthorized person might access their personal health information, down from 60% in 2016.
  • Younger adults ages 18 to 29 are less worried about privacy than other age groups, with 42% feeling “very” or “somewhat” concerned about unauthorized access. By contrast, more than half of adults in older age groups were “very” or “somewhat” concerned — the highest concerns being in those aged 50 to 64 (60%).

Dive Insight:

With 88% of Americans reporting their provider uses EHRs, ongoing privacy concerns can be problematic. Patients refusing to use an online portal or other tech-enabled method could impede care coordination or undermine communication between a patient and their provider.

Patient fears about security aren’t unfounded, though. While the number of healthcare data breaches is trending downward, more records are being affected, according to recent reports from cybersecurity and data monitoring companies Bitglass and Protenus.

Nearly half (45%) of those polled also reported being “very” or “somewhat” concerned about errors in their medical records that could negatively impact their care. And more than one in five (21%) said they or a family member had found an error in their EHR.

Of those, the most prevalent error was incorrect medical history (9%), followed by incorrect personal information (5%), incorrect lab or test results (3%), incorrect medication/prescription information (3%) and billing errors or issues (less than 1%).

The poll also lends weight to concerns doctors have that EHRs reduce patient engagement and can increase administrative burdens and burnout. Asked if EHRs have improved the quality of care they receive and their interactions with their providers, 45% and 44%, respectively, said yes. But slightly more (47%) said their care and interactions have not changed with the use of EHRs.

A recent PLOS One report found shortcomings in EHR design and functionality, along with the methods doctors use to get around them, are putting patient care and safety at risk. Rather than improve care and communication, EHRs frequently do the opposite, especially when clinicians are in the patient’s hospital room, the researchers said.

Feelings about how EHRs have affected patient experience also varied by age, with 57% of those ages 18 to 29 reporting better care, compared with 41% to 44% in older age groups.

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