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Survey of Consumers and HIT

By May 18, 2010Commentary

Interest in various aspects of health information technology has grown to a crescendo, driven by its prominent place in reform proposals and the perception that it can contribute to solving core health and health care problems.  Americans probably have a much greater awareness of potential uses of health information technology than they did even a decade ago.  The California HealthCare Foundation commissioned a survey to gather information about consumers’ knowledge of health IT and their desire to use it for improving health and managing their health care.  (CHCF Survey)

The survey begins by validating the frustration many patients feel with their care and the ability to communicate with providers and get sufficient information about their own and loved ones’ health and medical care.  Far and away the most common use of HIT is to go online to get medical information, followed by getting information about a doctor.  A somewhat surprising number of people, over 20% have used a website to enter information about diet and exercise or about a chronic illness and 15% have renewed a prescription online.  Less than 10% have emailed a physician or used a PHR.  Wealthier, more educated persons are most likely to use a PHR, but patients with chronic illness are more likely than the average person to use one.  Most users access a PHR supplied by a health plan, followed by one provided by a doctor.

Of those who use them, the best features were reported to be the ability to make sure information was correct, looking at test results, renewing prescriptions and interacting with physicians.  Using a PHR made patients feel like they knew more about their health and that they were better connected with their doctor.  Most patients said using a PHR led them to be more proactive in dealing with health issues.  Among non-users, about 40% said they were interested in a PHR for themselves and 48% for a person for whom they have caregiving responsibilities.  Non-users had a interest in similar capabilities as users and said they would prefer to access a PHR from a provider or health plan, significantly more so than from a government source like Medicare.  Non-users expressed high levels of concern about privacy, worried about cost and time and felt they didn’t really need the PHR.

Most patients were unaware if their physician had an EHR and most said it didn’t matter if the doctor used a computer or wrote things by hand during an encounter.  Generally people had a fairly high awareness of most common HIT applications and expressed an interest in home medical devices or tools which could collect information but the level of interest was higher if they were a caregiver.  The survey provides a good snapshot of HIT perceptions.  Perhaps one of the most interesting set of findings is that being a caregiver heightens a person’s desire to use HIT for the benefit of  the caregiving role more than does concern about that person’s own health.

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