Patients Willing to Switch Doctors to Access EHRs: Accenture Report

Controlling their own health records is important to patients, and 41 percent say they would be willing to seek a new provider to access them, according to an Accenture report.

A lack of access to their own electronic health records (EHRs) could lead many patients to switch doctors, IT consulting firm Accenture has revealed.

In fact, 41 percent of patients would sign up with a new doctor to be able to access their own EHRs when their current provider doesn't offer this capability, according to the Sept. 16 Accenture report "U.S. Research Findings Consumer Health Survey."

This data shows that "a meaningful number of patients think this is a pretty important thing to make a decision about who their doctor is," Dr. Kaveh Safavi, managing director of Accenture's North America health business, told eWEEK.

In the United States about 36 percent have access to an EHR maintained by their doctor, but more than 57 percent can track their health on their own. Of these respondents, 37 percent can track their health history, 34 percent can monitor their physical activity, and 33 percent can watch health indicators such as blood pressure and weight.

Providing patients with the ability to collaborate as part of a recordkeeping process allows them to have a better understanding of their conditions and boost their motivation to stay healthy, according to Safavi.

Doctors and patients have strong disagreement on the level of EHR access patients should have, Safavi said.

About 84 percent of consumers believe they should have full access their EHRs, but only 36 percent of physicians agree. A majority of U.S. doctors, or 65 percent, believe patients should have limited access to their EHRs and 63 percent actually do.

"The record has been the property of the doctor," Safavi said. "For a variety of reasons having to do with health care and consumer empowerment, all of these things converge. You are seeing a disconnect."

To keep patients for the long term, doctors will need to provide them with the access to clinical information they're looking for, he said.

Under Stage 2 of the federal government's meaningful-use program, doctors must provide a patient with access to their clinical information, Safavi noted. While Stage 1 is about physician adoption of EHRs, "Stage 2 is more about patient engagement," he said. "Patient engagement includes the ability to see their own information—something the patient can look at."

The meaningful-use mandates are part of a trend toward self-care for patients as the EHR transitions to a shared decision-making tool for patients and doctors, Safavi explained.

For the survey, Accenture interviewed 9,015 adults 18 and over in July from nine countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, France, Germany, Singapore, Spain and the United States. Harris Interactive fielded answers from respondents, and Accenture aggregated the survey data.

Of patients interviewed, 48 percent believe access to EHRs is very important. In addition, 77 percent view booking appointments online as important and 76 percent recognize a need to refill prescriptions electronically.

Currently, 48 percent of patients have the ability to refill prescription requests, 43 percent can request appointments, and 36 percent can email with providers, the report stated.

Meanwhile, physicians are ramping up their own use of EHRs and e-prescribing compared with other countries, a May 9 Accenture report revealed. They increased their "routine" use of health IT for tasks such as e-prescribing and data entry in EHRs by 32 percent, compared with 15 percent of doctors in other countries.