Notwithstanding the inclusion of $20 billion (and counting) being allocated to incentives for providers to adopt electronic health records in the U.S. as part of the HITECH Act of 2009, the American public lacks an understanding about what EHRs really are.

26% of Americans ranked patients as the last among groups that would benefit from digital records, with the least to gain.

This stunning datapoint comes from a survey conducted for Xerox, illustrated in the chart.

79% of adults with concerns about EHRs report stolen records as their top concern, followed by misuse of information (69%) and loss, damage, or corrupted records (68%). The group that’s most concerned about stolen records are 82% of adults age 45-54. 3 in 4 members of the youngest adult cohort, 18-34, are concerned about lost/damaged/corrupted data. Here, the traditionally-thought-of Facebook Generation express their worries about the security digital health data.

What’s most fascinating is the group Xerox identified most keen on embracing digital health records: those 55 and older. This group was most familiar with the process of converting paper medical files to electronic formats, and feel EHRs mean better, more efficient health care. 57% of people 55 and older expressed that, in the words of Xerox, “the switch to digital is necessary.”

HarrisInteractive conducted this survey online for Xerox in February 2010 among 2,180 adults ages 18 and older.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: On the positive side, 1 in 3 adults overall (39%) believe the switch to digital EHRs is necessary. And people with a college degree value EHRs more than people with lower educational attainment.

Overall, 1 in 4 adults say they want digitized health records, and 1 in 5 don’t have any concerns about EHRs (relative to privacy, security, theft, or data loss).

These numbers demonstrate a fairly clueless population of Americans when it comes to understanding the importance and value of electronic health records in improving quality, access, and patient satisfaction with health delivery in the U.S. The Department of Health and Human Services plans to survey Americans on this topic. The sooner, the better so that we can educate people on “why EHRs,” and get on with engaging people with their health data to improve outcomes and quality for health citizens.]]>