U.S. doctors don't believe patients need full access to health records

But they do think patients should be able to add their own updates

NEW ORLEANS -- While electronic medical records (EMR) may contain your health information, most physicians think you should only be able to add information to them, not get access to all of their contents.

A survey released this week at the HIMSS conference here, was conducted by Harris Interactive for healthcare consultancy Accenture. It involved 3,700 doctors in eight countries.

It found that 82% of U.S. physicians want patients to update their electronic health records with information about themselves, but only 31% believe patients should have full access to that record; 65% believe patients should have only limited access. Four percent said patients should have no access at all.

The findings were consistent among doctors surveyed in eight countries: Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Singapore, Spain and the United States. The research was conducted between November and December 2012.

Mark Knickrehm, global managing director of Accenture Health, said many physicians believe patients should take an active role in managing EMRs since doing so fosters a sense of ownership, and it allows both the doctor and patient to track results outside of scheduled appointments.

"Several U.S. health systems have proven that the benefits outweigh the risks in allowing patients open access to their health records, and we expect this trend to continue," Knickrehm said in a statement.

However, only 49% of doctors surveyed believe that giving patients access to their records is crucial to effective care. And, only 21% said they currently allow patients to have online access to their medical summary or patient chart, the most basic form of a patient's record.

Dr. Eric Topol, chief academic officer of Scripps Health, took aim at the medical community at the conference, calling for an end to paternal medicine -- where only the physician has access to healthcare information -- and the beginning of a time when patients own their data.

"You have a doctor-patient relationship that today is based on asymmetry. A lot of information to the doctor, very little for the patient," he said. "We're about having ... information parity. That's exciting. We can get away from this superiority of physicians to patients. That has got to go."

Most of the physicians surveyed (53%) believe introduction of EMRs into health systems has improved the quality of patient care and 84% said they are somewhat or strongly committed to promoting EMRs in their own practice. Most (77%) also believe governments are making the right investments in adopting electronic records and 83% believe EMRs will become key to effective patient care in the next two years.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

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