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Xerox EHR survey: Patient engagement a tall task

Meaningful use stage 2 requirements mandate that 5% of a facility’s patients must view, download or transmit their data electronically in order to qualify for incentive payments. That could prove a difficult goal to reach, if statistics from Xerox’s fourth annual EHR survey represent the country as a whole. The company’s data says only 19% of American adults currently have access to their online medical records.

Other numbers from the survey don’t seem to indicate strong patient support of EHRs. Of the 2,009 surveyed patients, fewer than one-third (32%) want their patient records converted to EHRs, an increase of 6% since 2010. A large majority (83%) of patients also have concerns, such as data security, about digital health records.

A recent report from the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority may justify patients’ concerns with EHRs. The report found identified 324 events from 2004 through 2013 in which errors were caused by EHR software default settings. Default settings of medication dosage and other processes are automatically programmed into EHRs to reduce the chance of human error.  Nearly all of the default setting mistakes (314) were verified as errors, but did not result in an adverse result for the affected patient.

The copying and pasting of information between EHRs is another trend that may influence public opinion on EHR systems. Copying information from one EHR and adding it into another defeats the purpose of giving patients access to their electronic records, which are supposed to more in-depth and personalized than paper records. EHR copy and paste can result in false data being placed in a patient’s record. That’s bad enough, but permanently removing that information from an individual’s EHR is no easy task either.

Adoption of EHRs is failing to meet expectations in a number of ways. A study from BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making indicated that EHRs don’t yet document all of the necessary data to help clinical researchers recruit patients for studies. Much of the valuable data recorded in EHRs is held in free-text fields — not standardized locations — limiting researchers’ abilities to systematically search through large quantities of patient records.

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