While 87% of U.S. adults are familiar with health providers converting paper medical records into digital records, only 26% — 1 in 4 — say they want their own medical records to go digital.

This sobering statistic comes as hundreds of thousands of doctors and hospitals are migrating to electronic health records (EHRs), motivated by the U.S. government’s HITECH act which provides incentives for the adoption and so-called meaningful use of EHRs.

To gauge U.S. consumers’ views on digital medical records, Xerox polled 2,147 U.S. adults ages 18 and via an online survey in May 2012.

The chart illustrates several key consumer perceptions among all patients

  • 40% of people believe that digital records mean better, more efficient care
  • 40% believe the move to digital records is necessary
  • 25% see adoption of EHRs as a huge undertaken that will be “riddled” with problems before they work well
  • 8% are each excited or frightened by the prospect of EHRs in their future.
Among consumers familiar with the conversion of paper records to digital, relatively more of them (46%) believe that digital records mean better, more efficient care, and 30% want their records to be digitized.

Of those health consumers who have seen a health care provider, 26% say their providers have involved them in some way in the conversion from paper to digital records. These interactions could have involved signing consent forms for the conversion of the records, educating patients about access to their electronic records, and other encounters.

Since a majority of consumers aren’t welcoming the advent of EHRs for their own records, Xerox was smart to ask people what concerns they had about EHRs. Among the 85% of consumers with concerns about EHRs, 74% of consumers are worried that their personal health information could be stolen by a hacker; 59% believe that EHR files could be lost, damaged or corrupted; 60% believe their data could be misused; and, 59% worry that a power outage could prevent doctors from accessing their information.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  These findings from Xerox contrast with the survey from the CDC published earlier this month about physicians’ adoption of and early experience with EHRs, covered here in Health Populi. The topline of this physician survey is that most doctors are generally satisfied with their first wave of EHR adoption.

Among Xerox’s health consumers polled, 59% of them have seen their doctor enter medical information into an electronic device: 29% on a computer in the exam room, 24% on a laptop, and 6% into a tablet (think: iPad, by far the most adopted tablet brand among physicians). Another 28% of patients have seen their doctors enter data on pen and paper, and 2% via voice recognition systems.

At that point-of-care is a moment-of-truth opportunity for physicians, nurses and other clinical caregivers to discuss the merits of electronic health data and EHRs. Meaningful use is a two-way conversation between clinicians and patients: patient engagement requires health consumers to get up-close-and-comfortable with personal health information.

Patients — health citizens, all — need to learn more about EHRs and why they underpin a modernized U.S. health system. In the coming months, several campaigns will be promoting the use of EHRs by providers and patients. One will be a broadcast and video campaign from the Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT promoting the concept of EHRs, their benefits and rationale, and consumers’ opportunities for engaging with them. Stay tuned for a clever animated segment to be launched at HealthIT.gov on August 7, 2012.

Disclaimer: I was involved in the development of this project with ONC and their video producers.