A large majority of patients say they want doctors to move to an all-electronic format for medical records and prescriptions, saying that by doing so the quality of care would improve and the healthcare system in general would become more streamlined and less fragmented.
Information technology is certainly part of the solution, said Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, which released the survey as part of a broader report on improving healthcare coordination. Its not just a matter of the doctor having a computer, its about having all the information from different doctors, different emergency rooms and different pharmacies being all together in one place.
Nearly 90% of the respondents to the Harris Interactive survey said they want their doctors to be able to share information electronically, and another 71% said they want their doctors to be able to order prescriptions by way of computers. Harris Interactive polled 1,000 adults by telephone in late May for the survey.
While the patients were clear about wanting to have medical professionals be able to access data electronically, they were less certain about their own role.
Forty-four percent of respondents said that they would access their own medical records via the Internet if available, and 48% said they would book appointments and e-mail their doctors, if possible. Only a handful of them8% and 18%, respectivelysaid they were able to do that now.
Davis said that the widespread adoption of health IT would work to quickly align the caregiving process. Having a system in place, she added, would also reduce the number of duplicative tests and boost overall drug safety as well. Still, she cautioned that health IT is just one part of what is expected to be a multipronged approach to reform.
Its necessary, but not sufficient, Davis said. In the Commonwealth Funds report, Organizing the U.S. Health Care Delivery System for High Performance, researchers call on providers to adopt electronic health records within a five-year time frame, but acknowledge that other fundamental changes are also needed.
Other recommendations include: moving from traditional fee-for-service payments to a system where providers and hospitals are paid for high-quality, patient-centered care; providing incentives for patients who use such providers; and making regulatory changes to current rules that muzzle providers from sharing patient data.