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Doctors willing to go only so far on patient EHR access

The more technical or medically complicated the data, the less willing physicians are to share control of their records.

By — Posted March 18, 2013

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The vast majority of physicians would like patients to be involved in updating their electronic health records — but they think there should be some limits.

A survey by Accenture found that 82% of U.S. physicians want patients to “actively participate in their own health care” by updating their EHRs. Many systems allow doctors to give patients access to the records through patient portals. Stage 2 of the meaningful use EHR incentive program requires 5% of a doctor’s patients to use such a portal, though the program does not specify what must be in it.

In the Accenture survey, in which Harris Interactive was hired to query 3,700 physicians in eight countries, the 500 U.S. physicians were the most open to patients updating the EHR.

“Many physicians believe that patients should take an active role in managing their own health information, because it fosters personal responsibility and ownership and enables both the patient and doctor to track progress outside scheduled appointments,” said Mark Knickrehm, senior global manager director of Accenture Health. “Several U.S. health systems have found that the benefits outweigh the risks in allowing patients open access to their medical records, and we expect this trend to continue.”

Giving patients electronic access to their records was considered “crucial” to providing more effective care by 49% of the surveyed U.S. doctors.

Access — with limits

However, a majority of American doctors, like their counterparts surveyed in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Singapore, Spain and the United Kingdom, are not willing to give patients complete access to their records. Of the U.S. doctors, 31% said patients should have full EHR access, while 65% said it should be limited.

The Accenture survey did not spell out why physicians felt as they did about access. But other responses showed that the more technical or medically complicated the information in the EHR, the less willing doctors were to share control with patients.

For example, 95% of U.S. doctors said they would be open to patients updating some or all of their demographic information in the EHR. (Physicians could show an interest in specific items for patients to update, even if they did not show a preference for allowing patient updates in general.) Meanwhile, 88% said they would be open to allowing patients to update some or all of their family medical history, and 85% said they could update some or all of their allergic episodes

However, only 53% said patients should be able to update some or all of their lab results.

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