If any of us still think that patients don't really want access to their health-related data or that "patient engagement" is yet another passing fad in healthcare, there is growing data that the information and access that people have come to expect in every other part of their lives is having an impact on how patients think about who should have access and even control over their health data. According to a recent survey by Accenture of 2,000 US Consumers(1), more than half (51%) of those with chronic diseases believe that the benefits of accessing health info online outweigh the risks of a privacy breach Interestingly, the concern about privacy breaches with health info is lower (65%) than for online banking data (70%) or credit card data used in store transactions (69%). The concern about data from credit cards used in stores is very likely influenced by the media coverage of the recent breach of data at national retailers such as Target.
In the 2014 Accenture Patient Engagement Survey, 60% say having access to health data is akin to a "human right" and believe strongly that they should have access to all of their health info. These findings are another indication of how important the Electronic Medical Record Stage 2 MU criteria are that pertain to patient access. In a recent survey the California HealthCare Foundation concluded that patients become more engaged in their health and medical care when they have easy access to their health information online.(2) More importantly, when it is there, they appear to use it - 80% of Americans who have access to their information online report accessing and using the information. (3) There are also some long-held beliefs by many healthcare providers that are based on very faulty assumptions. For example, many still believe that "older" patients won't use the internet. As we can probably see from our own family and friends, that is an old stereotype that simply isn't true. Many studies have shown that internet use is growing fastest among seniors. A study by Pew showed that between 2000-2012, internet use among those 65 and older tripled. For those 50-64, internet use doubled.(4) The bottom line is simple - patients of all age groups are online and they are increasingly demanding the sort of access and control over their health care data that they enjoy in other areas of their life. Practices of all types and sizes need to have a proactive strategy for meeting these requirements and ensuring a streamlined patient experience if they want to secure their patient base and compete in today's healthcare environment.
(2) California HealthCare Foundation. Measuring the Impact of Patient Portals: What the Literature Tells Us. May 2011.
(4) Pew Internet & American Life Project http://www.pewinternet.org/Pesentations/2012/Sep/Senior-Citizens-and-Digital-Technology.aspx