Three Reasons for Patient Skepticism about EHR Implementation

September 28, 2013

Turn patient skepticism into enthusiasm about your medical practice's EHR implementation.

EHRs have quickly gone from being a luxury to an industry standard. Since 2008, certified EHR usage among physicians has increased from 17 percent to over 50 percent, according to a May 2013 HHS press release. Implementation rates should continue to grow as the deadline for meaningful use in the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs draws closer.

While physicians are apparently buying in to the necessity for and potential benefits of EHR implementation, many patients remain skeptical. And their uncertainty stems from concerns that EHR will increase healthcare costs, compromise their privacy, and reduce the quality of care provided.

Higher Healthcare Costs

Major hospitals such as Duke University Health System, Partners HealthCare, and the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center each faced nine-figure electronic record implementation costs, according to Forbes. While independent practices will see much lower costs, patients are still concerned that these expenditures won’t produce enough savings over time to negate the costs of implementation being handed down to the patients. There is reason for optimism, however. A recent study by University of Michigan researchers, which was summarized by WebMD, investigated three Massachusetts communities and found that the use of EHR reduced average healthcare costs by $5.14 per patient per month.

Concerns about Privacy

Thanks to HIPAA, people are allowed to request a copy of their personal medical records from their physicians. Therefore, patients aren’t so concerned about physicians having access to too much of their medical data, but they do fear the likelihood of a privacy breach. After all, if brands such as the New York Times and Twitter, as well as most American banks cannot prevent attacks from hackers, then how will a small private practice? Patients will also be more vulnerable to internal breaches, which is what some patients at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles found out earlier this year when 14 patient records were "inappropriately accessed" in just one week, according to Healthcare, Business & Technology. Even physicians have concerns about patient privacy. During the third annual Health Privacy Summit, Kathryn Serkes, founder of the Doctor Patient Medical Association, cited "the disturbing results" of a survey on privacy and trust, according to The Health Care Blog, which included the statistic that 67 percent of physicians believe EHR will harm patient privacy, while just 8 percent expect EHR to improve it.

Drop in Quality of Care

As physicians endure the growing pains associated with EHR implementation, patients worry that their doctors will have less face-to-face time. They believe technical issues could also hinder or prevent patient care. A recent study described by Reuters, however, suggests that the opposite could be true. Researchers in California found that the switch from paper to electronic records led to modest reductions in hospitalizations among diabetes patients. And a study published by the School of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania in 2011 evaluated the relationship between EHR adoption and nurse-assessed quality of care. Nurses who worked in facilities with basic EHRs "reported that poor patient safety and other quality outcomes occurred less frequently than reported by nurses working in hospitals without an EHR," according to the study.

Both physicians and their patients are dealing with major changes in the healthcare industry, and a lot of voices are trying to shape our opinions and perceptions regarding those changes. Just as practices must help their staff members get used to working with EHRs, the employees will have to help their patients feel more comfortable with these new offerings.

To help put your patients at ease, let them know that you’re willing to address any questions or concerns they might have about your practice’s EHR implementation. Providing this information might help turn patient skepticism into enthusiasm.