This policy brief from the National Partnership for Women & Families describes the results of a national survey about how consumers value and use health information technology.  A growing number of consumers are embracing electronic health records (EHRs), and the significant boost in online access to health information is increasing patient engagement in their care.

Harris Poll conducted the online survey of 2,045 adults who indicated that they have a primary doctor and their doctor keeps medical and health information in electronic or paper format. The survey was conducted between April 22 and May 7, 2014.  The survey includes oversamples of three populations that experience disparities: Latino/Hispanic, Black/African American and Asian American adults. The new study also reports the views of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people, as well as people with disabilities, since these individuals experience significant disparities, too.  The survey was funded by the California HealthCare Foundation.

Among key findings from the survey:

  • In the last year, more than four in five patients with online access to their health records (86 percent) used their online records at least once – and more than half (55 percent) used them three or more times a year.
  • Eighty percent of adults in the United States who have doctors and know what kind of record systems — electronic or paper — their doctors use said that their doctors use EHR systems. That is up from 64 percent in 2011;
  • Eighty-five to 96 percent of all patients found EHRs useful in various aspects of care delivery, while only 57-68 percent saw paper records as useful;
  • Patients’ online access to EHRs has nearly doubled, surging from 26 percent in 2011 to 50 percent in 2014;
  • Consumers want even more robust functionality and features of online access than are available today, including the ability to email providers (56 percent); review treatment plans (56 percent), doctors’ notes (58 percent) and test results (75 percent); schedule appointments (64 percent); and submit medication refill requests (59 percent);
  • Patients’ trust in the privacy and security of EHRs has increased since 2011, and patients with online access to their health information have a much higher level of trust in their doctor and medical staff (77 percent) than those with EHRs that don’t include online access (67 percent); and
  • Different populations prefer and use different health IT functionalities. For instance, Hispanic adults were significantly more likely than non-Hispanic Whites (78 vs. 55 percent) to say that having online access to their EHRs increases their desire to do something about their health;i and African American adults were among the most likely to say that EHRs are helpful in finding and correcting medical errors and keeping up with medications. So specialized strategies may be necessary to improve health outcomes and reduce disparities in underserved populations.

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