Consumers Hungry For Online Health Data Access

Posted on September 24, 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 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.

We may be at a major tipping point, folks. It seems that consumers are becoming eager to interact with both their doctors and their health data online, after years of fear and disinterest.  In fact, it seems that doctors  may be lagging behind.

A new survey from Optum Institute, a part of health insurer UnitedHealth’s Optum division, took a look at attitudes across several major stakeholder groups, including 1,000 physicians, 2,870 U.S. adults and 400 U.S. executives.

Optum found that three out of four patients were interested in accessing their health records online through EMRs, and more th an 60 percent wanted to connect with doctors via e-mail or other Internet vehicles.

And that’s not all. According a summary of the study in MedCityNews:

  • 76 percent of patients are willing to go online to view test results
  • 65 percent want appointment reminders via email
  • 62 percent of patients want to communicate online with their primary care physician

Meanwhile, physicians don’t seem to be keeping up. Only 40 percent of physicians said they had the ability to allow patient EMR access or communicate securely via the Internet.

Why such a gap? Apparently, many of the doctors Optum surveyed have only basic EMRs in place which don’t support patient data access or communication.  For example, only 46 percent of physicians’ EMRs offer patient-specific information to help them make decisions and manage their health.

It’s hard to tell from a survey like this whether patients merely like the idea of greater connectivity, or are ready to insist that their doctors get on board.  So I wouldn’t go out on a limb at this point and suggest that doctors will lose patients if they don’t get their EMRs souped up quickly.

This does suggest, however, that when physicians make patient data access easier and begin to communicate online, they’ll certainly make some new fans.