Americans say EHRs worth the privacy risks

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Dec. 4—A majority of polled Americans believe EHRs have the potential to improve U.S. healthcare and that the benefits outweigh privacy risks, based on a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Online/Harris Interactive poll.

According to poll results published in The WSJ, three-quarters of the 2,153 survey respondents agreed that patients could receive better care if doctors and researchers were able to share information using electronic systems and 63 percent agreed such record sharing could decrease errors.

Also, 55 percent agreed the transition could reduce healthcare costs, compared with 15 percent who disagree. However, about one-quarter of those polled remained unsure whether EHRs can provide these benefits.

Approximately one-fourth of respondents said they currently use some form of EHR; most said the record is kept by their physician, while only 2 percent said they have created and maintain their own record. Another 17 percent said they are unsure whether they have such a record. Still, 91 percent of those polled said patients should have access to their EHRs maintained by their physician.

Among those who use an EHR, half said they are very confident that their physicians and other healthcare providers have a complete and accurate picture of their medical history, compared with 27 percent of those who do not have EHRs.

The WSJ reported that EHRs have hit barriers over privacy concerns and the resistance of doctors to the potential time and financial costs of transferring paper records online. The poll indicates the privacy concerns remain: half of those surveyed say the use of EHRs made it more difficult to ensure patients' privacy, down from 61 percent in a 2006 poll, while 25 percent disagree and another quarter say they are unsure. Yet, nearly two-thirds of respondents said the benefits of EHRs outweigh the privacy risks, compared with 40 percent who think they do not.