The Wall Street Journal earlier this week published the results of a poll it commissioned on the benefits (and one would hope, the potential risks) of an electronic medical record (EMR, also known as an electronic health record [EHR] or personal health record [PHR]). A summary of the results:
The survey of 2,153 U.S. adults, conducted Nov. 12-14, shows three-quarters of respondents agree that patients could receive better care if doctors and researchers were able to share information more easily via electronic systems and 63% agree sharing of such records could decrease medical errors. Fifty-five percent agree this could reduce health-care costs, compared with 15% who disagree. However, about one-quarter of adults remain unsure whether electronic medical records can provide these benefits.
Note that virtually no electronic medical record in existence today allows doctors and researchers to share information with one another. I’m not certain where the WSJ pulled that question from, since it would be a pipe dream. Researchers do comb and analyze data from medical records — both paper and electronic — but the way the WSJ phrased the result suggests they were talking about personal improvement of one’s healthcare due to such sharing.
Most medical errors are most often caused by human error misunderstanding or misreading something related to the patient. Paper records have the downside of bad handwriting, so indeed, one of the benefits of an electronic medical record is reducing such preventable errors.
About one-fourth of respondents say they currently use some form of electronic medical record; most say the record is kept by their physician, while only 2% say they have created and maintain their own record and another 17% said they aren’t sure whether they have such a record. Still, 91% of those polled say patients should have access to their own electronic records maintained by their physician.
And that’s the key finding from this poll — virtually nobody is maintaining their own electronic medical record. It’s not clear why the WSJ didn’t then ask the obvious followup question — would you be more interested in maintaining your own record or having someone maintain it for you? Chances are, most people would prefer their doctor to maintain it because there is just too much data to have to deal with to keep it updated.
Privacy remains a concern, but isn’t it always? It hasn’t seemed to matter one iota in stopping or slowing the growth of social networks, even those in health where people seem largely oblivious to the issues in putting all of their health concerns into a shared online database that is then accessed by marketing and data mining companies.
Link to the article: Benefits of Electronic Health Records Seen as Outweighing Privacy Risks