Making Electronic Health Records Consumer-Friendly

A new survey and a list of guiding principles are released at a new conference in the hopes of making electronic health records more accessible and useful to Americans.

Almost three-quarters of Americans surveyed in a study sponsored by the health care-oriented non-profit Markle Foundation say they favor the establishment of a nationwide electronic information exchange that would allow a patients health information to be shared with authorized individuals via the Internet.

However, ensuring patient privacy and control over their records is perceived as essential. More than nine out of 10 people surveyed want to ensure that their records are completely secure and only accessible to those authorized. And three out of four Americans say a top priority is making sure their records could be shared only after they provide explicit permission. More than two-thirds are concerned that their employer never has access to their electronic medical records.

"Americans use digital information technology to manage their finances, pay bills, book flights, and customize the music they listen to," noted Zoë Baird, president of the Markle Foundation. "And our research shows they now want to use health information technology to get the best care possible for themselves and be better able to manage their own health,"

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Most Americans believe that electronic medical records will improve their health care. Four out of five people surveyed believe that if physicians kept electronic medical records on their patients, health care quality would improve and medical errors would be reduced, because authorized doctors would be able to retrieve a patients medical history in a matter of seconds. An equal number believe that the ability of researchers to review millions of records anonymously to determine best treatment practices would help all doctors improve the quality of medical care.

The survey results and seven basic consumer and patient principles to guide the implementation of health IT will be presented at the first national event, the Personal Health Records Conference, to focus on the needs and concerns of consumers in the field of health IT.

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