survey_online_webAccording to a new study, Engaging Patients and Families: How Consumers Value and Use Health IT , consumers are cozying up to electronic health records. Trust and engagement are on the rise. In the last year, more than four in five patients with online access to their health records (86 percent) used their online records at least once and more than half (55 percent) used them three or more times a year.

The study was released on December 10, 2014, by the National Partnership for Women & Families and offers an in-depth look at how patients value and use health IT, and which functions are important to them. Harris Poll conducted the online survey of 2,045 adults who indicated that they have a primary doctor and their doctor keeps medical and health information in electronic or paper format.

“To date, the public discourse on health IT has largely focused on the views of doctors, hospitals and vendors,” said National Partnership President Debra L. Ness. “It is crucial to hear what patients have to say about how they experience EHRs and health IT as they receive care and manage their health – and that’s the focus of Engaging Patients and Families.”

In 2011, the National Partnership spearheaded a groundbreaking national survey that assessed consumer views toward EHRs and health information technology (health IT). By repeating questions from 2011, the new survey identifies trends in patient attitudes, reflecting progress from the launch of the Meaningful Use and other federal and state programs to substantial adoption and use of EHRs today.

At the same time, the survey’s new questions yield data on major new topics in discussion for health IT policies and programs, including patient-generated health data, patient care plans and mobile access.

Key findings of the new survey include:

Eighty percent of adults in the United States who have doctors and know what kind of record systems—electronic or paper—their doctors use said that their doctors use EHR systems. That is up from 64 percent in 2011;

Eighty-five to 96 percent of all patients found EHRs useful in various aspects of care delivery, while only 57-68 percent saw paper records as useful;

Patients’ online access to EHRs has nearly doubled, surging from 26 percent in 2011 to 50 percent in 2014;

Consumers want even more robust functionality and features of online access including the ability to email providers (56 percent); review treatment plans (56 percent), doctors’ notes (58 percent) and test results (75 percent); schedule appointments (64 percent); and submit medication refill requests (59 percent);

Trust in the privacy and security of EHRs has increased since 2011, and patients with online access to their health information have a much higher level of trust in their doctor and medical staff (77 percent) than those with EHRs that don’t include online access (67 percent).

“As the National Partnership’s new data show, more consumers are accessing, sharing and using their health information, underlining the importance of interoperability of health data and systems. We are focusing our efforts in these areas to empower individuals to address not only gaps in information exchange and interoperability, but also enable them to take steps to improve their health and better manage their health needs,” said Karen DeSalvo, MD, National Coordinator for Health IT.

The survey was conducted between April 22 and May 7, 2014 on behalf of the National Partnership for Women & Families. The report includes a number of recommendations on the use of EHRs, online access, electronic communication and information sharing, privacy and trust, and designing and building for diversity.