Survey Says Few Americans Want EMRs

Posted on August 31, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

I don’t know what to make of the following survey, which suggests that EMRs have a very long way to go before they’re accepted by the public.  Let’s lay out the numbers and see what you think.

According to new research from Xerox, only 26 percent of Americans would like to see their medical records digitized, despite otherwise having a love affair with all things digital.

Xerox, which hired Harris Interactive to do the study, did an online survey of 2,147 U.S. adults in May, asking them several questions related to their perceptions of EMRs. Forty percent said that digital medical records could deliver better and more efficient care, true, but 85 percent said they were concerned about the use of EMRs, Xerox reported.

Whatever is generating their resistance — and I’ll speculate on that in a minute — it’s not because they’ve never seen digital medicine. When asked how their providers recorded digital information during their last visit, 60 percent said data was entered into a tablet, laptop or in-room computer.

So, if Americans love online banking, Internet gaming and ordering from restaurants via the Web, why would medical records concern them so?

My guess is that the results we see here may be a result of the approach the researchers took.  If someone asked me: “Do you want something delicious and cool to eat during hot weather?” I’m pretty sure I’d say yes. On the other hand, if I was asked “Would you like to try this brand new ‘ice cream’ thing you’ve seen your neighbors eat?” I’m not as sure I’d be high on the idea.

If we’re going to forward the dialogue on EMRs with consumers, we’re going to have to help them understand why EMRs matter, and how they get the job done. Sure, the more esoteric stuff we discuss here might fly over their heads, but if you explained, for example, that EMRs can protect them from medical errors and and coordinate care better, they’ll get it.