Data Note: Public’s Experiences With Electronic Health Records

Using data from the January 2019 KFF Health Tracking Poll, this data note examines the public’s attitudes about and experiences with electronic health records (EHRs). At the beginning of the health care reform debate in 2009, KFF polls showed the public held mixed views of EHRs. Most said it would improve care (67 percent), but fewer believed it would reduce health care costs (22 percent) and large shares had privacy concerns (59 percent). While there has been a significant increase in the implementation of EHRs since 2009, mostly driven by federal legislation mandating that health care providers adopt EHRs, the January 2019 KFF Health Tracking Poll finds the public remains concerned about privacy issues.

Over the past decade, the share of Americans who say their doctors or other health providers routinely enter their information into electronic health records has nearly doubled from 46% to 88%.

Electronic Health Records

EHRs have become ubiquitous, with an increasing share of the public reporting that their health provider usually enters their health information into a computer-based medical record. Since 2009, this share has almost doubled, from 46 percent in 2009 to 88 percent in 2019.

Figure 1: Majority Of The Public Now Says Their Physician Uses A Computer-Based Medical Record

Perceptions of how EHRs Have affected quality of care

Among those whose physician uses an electronic health record (88 percent of the public), large shares say that their physician’s use of an EHR has made the quality of care they receive and their interactions with their physician “better” (45 percent and 44 percent, respectively). Similar shares (47 percent, both) say the quality of care they receive and their interactions with their physician have “stayed the same” while few say that EHRs have made the quality of care they receive or their interactions with their physician “worse” (six percent and seven percent, respectively).

Figure 2: Few Say Electronic Health Records Have Made Their Patient Experience Worse

Perceptions of how EHRs have affected their patient experience differ among age groups, with the youngest group reporting the most positive effects on their experiences. For example, a majority (57 percent) of adults ages 18-29 say that the quality of care they receive is “better,” while none say that it is “worse” as a result of their physician using a computer-based medical record.

Figure 3: Few Say Electronic Health Records Have Made Health Care Experience Worse, Majority Of Young Adults Say It Has Improved Quality

Electronic Health Record Concerns: Privacy and Errors

While there is wide acceptance among the public for the use of EHRs, some concerns about privacy and accuracy of records remain.

Over half of those with EHRs (54 percent) report feeling “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” that an unauthorized person might get access to their confidential medical records and information. This is a slight decrease from the share who reported feeling concerned in 2016 (60 percent).

Most patients who have electronic health records say they are concerned about unauthorized people accessing their confidential information, @KaiserFamFound poll finds

Younger adults are less likely to express privacy concerns compared to other age groups. Four in ten adults (42 percent) between the ages of 18-29 report being either “very” or “somewhat” concerned that an unauthorized person might get access to their records compared to more than half for older age groups.

Figure 4: More Young Adults Say They Are Not Concerned About Unauthorized People Accessing Confidential Medical Information

In addition, nearly half (45 percent) report feeling “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” that there are errors in their personal health information that may negatively affect their care, compared to a larger share (54 percent) who say they are “not too concerned” or “not at all concerned.”

Figure 5: Nearly Half Are Concerned That Errors In Medical Information May Negatively Affect Care

While nearly half of those with EHRs are concerned about errors in their records (40 percent of total), one in five overall (21 percent) say that they or a family member have noticed an error in their EHR. The most-reported errors are incorrect medical history (9 percent); fewer report incorrect personal information (five percent), incorrect lab or test results (three percent), incorrect medication or prescription information (three percent), and billing issues (less than one percent).

Figure 6: One In Five Have Noticed An Error In Their Electronic Health Record

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