img_3343About 1 in 2 patients in the US are accessing their electronic health records in early 2016, according to Accenture’s 2016 Consumer Survey on Patient Engagement, Patients Want a Heavy Dose of Digital. This post is based on a presentation I attended by Accenture’s Dr. Kipp Webb yesterday.

Accenture conducted survey research with consumers in seven countries for this study. The data and insights shared in this post are based only on the survey results from 2,225 US patients.

The proportion of US health consumers accessing their health records grew from 27% in 2014 to 45% in 2016 — an increase of 67% in two years. 

The top users of EHRs to manage personal health are people ages 65-74 years old, and the lowest-level users of EHR data are the youngest adults, between 18 and 34 years of age.

Data elements people know they can access from their EHRs include lab work and blood test results (48% of people know of this in 2016 compared with 24% in 2014 — a doubling of the percent); prescription medication history (44%), immunization status (37%), personal profile/demographics (36%), billing information (35%), physician notes (33%), and x-rays and digital imaging results (29%). Just 35% of people do not know what information can be accessed in the EHR — a nearly one-half reduction since 2014 when 61% of patients didn’t know what was in their EHR.

The two areas here that patients feel are most helpful to their own health management are lab work and blood test results, and physician notes.

This issue of physician notes is on the minds of many consumers, the vast majority of whom (92%) believe should have “full access” to their EHR. However, these open-access thinking patients have a disconnect with physicians, only 18% of whom think patients should have full access to their EHRs.

Consumers’ use of apps and wearables doubled between 2014 and 2016, with 21% of US consumers using wearable technology for health, and 33% using health apps via mobile phone or tablet. Similar to other current surveys of digital heath consumers, the most popular themes for health apps used are fitness (here, 59% of consumers using the) and food/diet/nutrition (for 52% of consumers). About 10% of consumers are using apps to manage chronic conditions and diseases.

The majority of both patients and doctors believe that using wearable technology can increase peoples’ health engagement. 51% of consumers would be willing to wear a device for health tracking. 3 in 4 consumers said their use of a tech to track their health would be bolstered by their doctor recommended they do so. And 9 in 10 consumers would share that app or device data with either their doctor or nurse. 

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  People are morphing into homo informaticus in daily life, using computers, mobile platforms, and connected devices (THINK: Internet of Things) to manage everyday living tasks. The same is increasingly true for peoples’ health-lives.

One segment for which this is intensely true is Moms, whom Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia recently polled about their own digital health demands. Note the Accenture data finding that 37% of consumers are aware that they can access immunization data from EHRs. For Moms, this is a top health data demand. BCBSGa learned that 64% of Moms value on-demand healthcare access more than food delivery or streaming videos. 79% of Moms are keen try out and learn more about telehealth options for healthcare services.

The one sticking point, or friction aspect, revealed by the Accenture survey has to do with open access for consumers who want to see their entire EHR. That’s a big chasm to cross. There is, however, promising research and real-world adoption of the Open Notes project where physicians are opening their clinical/EHR kimonos to share their notes with patients. “Notes” often include qualitative and less structured and formal information about Mrs. Jones or Mr. Smith or little Johnny or Joanie – regarding their lives, social determinants of health, and mental health observations. Most physicians who have participated in Open Notes have found the project and process to lead to better relationships with patients, and greater patient engagement. That’s one hopeful pathway to crossing the bridge and continuing to build all-important trust between patient and provider.