U.S. doctors don't believe patients need full access to health records

As Obamacare and health advocacy groups push patient engagement, many physicians resist the change in relationship

Although electronic health records (EHR) systems may contain your health information, most physicians believe you should only be able to add information to them, not get access to all of their contents. A survey released this week at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference in New Orleans, was conducted by Harris Interactive for health care consultancy Accenture. It involved 3,700 doctors in eight countries.

It found that 82 percent of U.S. physicians want patients to update their electronic health records with information about themselves, but only 31 percent believe patients should have full access to that record; 65 percent believe patients should have only limited access. Four percent said patients should have no access at all.

[ InfoWorld's Galen Gruman reports from HIMSS: iPads have won the hospital, but Android may win the patientsInfoWorld Tech Watch blog. ]

The findings were consistent among doctors surveyed in eight countries: Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Singapore, Spain, and the United States. The research was conducted between November and December 2012.

Mark Knickrehm, global managing director of Accenture Health, said many physicians believe patients should take an active role in managing EHRs since doing so fosters a sense of ownership, and it allows both the doctor and patient to track results outside of scheduled appointments.

"Several U.S. health systems have proven that the benefits outweigh the risks in allowing patients open access to their health records, and we expect this trend to continue," Knickrehm said in a statement.

However, only 49 percent of doctors surveyed believe that giving patients access to their records is crucial to effective care. And, only 21 percent said they currently allow patients to have online access to their medical summary or patient chart, the most basic form of a patient's record.

Dr. Eric Topol, chief academic officer at Scripps Health, took aim at the medical community at the conference, calling for an end to paternal medicine -- where only the physician has access to health care information -- and the beginning of a time when patients own their data.

"You have a doctor-patient relationship that today is based on asymmetry. A lot of information to the doctor, very little for the patient," he said. "We're about having ... information parity. That's exciting. We can get away from this superiority of physicians to patients. That has got to go."

Most of the physicians surveyed (53 percent) believe introduction of EHRs into health systems has improved the quality of patient care, and 84 percent said they are somewhat or strongly committed to promoting EHRs in their own practice. Most (77 percent) also believe governments are making the right investments in adopting electronic records and 83 percent believe EHRs will become key to effective patient care in the next two years.


Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery, and business continuity, financial services infrastructure, and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com. See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com. Read more about health care IT in Computerworld's health care IT Topic Center.

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