Consumers are willing to pay as much as $60 a year for EMRs, according to a Web survey released this week by the consultancy group Accenture.
But companies may not be able to provide the service necessary to make them useful, implies another Web survey of IT executives by CIOInsight.
The Accenture study surveyed about 520 people. It found wide enthusiasm for EMRs.
More than 90 percent thought electronic medical records could improve medical care and reduce hospital errors.
Ninety-three percent said they wanted emergency care personnel to be able to access their records if it could reduce treatment errors.
Most thought health care providers ask the same questions repeatedly and that EMRs could reduce wait-time in a doctors office. And just over half said theyd be willing to pay at least $5 a month to have their records stored in an electronic format.
Even though Web-based surveys can only query people who are somewhat comfortable with IT, such a positive response was unexpected, said Manuel Lowenhaupt, a partner in Accentures health practice.
“I was actually quite surprised by the level of enthusiasm and excitement that we saw from consumers regarding EMR.”
Lowenhaupt said that most companies that had been successful in patient-managed records had “captive members” who did not pay for the service specifically but received it as part of some other package, like membership in a health plan.
Several companies, including FollowMe, RedMedic, MedicAlert and CapMed already let customers manage their medical information online. Most charge around $30 a year.
Some charge more and provide other services, such as specialized flash drives.
Another company, Medem, allows patients to input and store their medical records for free, but charges physicians $25 a month for the service.
In addition, both CapMed and Medem have some ability to pull information from physicians medical records.
Lowenhaupt said that the results implied that physician offices would gain a competitive advantage by installing electronic medical record systems, but warned that capitalizing on patients willingness to pay for electronic medical records would be difficult because access would have to be available to a broad swath of different providers and getting a critical mass of providers could be prohibitive.
“I wouldnt want to underestimate the care and feeding of such a project,” he said.
Besides, even if people would part with a few dollars a month to keep their medical records online, theres little indication that theyd give up their time to manage their records.
That would be where the largest health benefits could be realized, said Lowenhaupt.