Yet another study has confirmed that Americans want increased online access to medical professionals and information.
In fact, findings from a 2,250-person survey show that tech-savvy Americans would even like to add their doctors on Facebook and email them. Around 37% of respondents said they’d emailed a doctor in the past six months, while 18% had tried to reach out via Facebook. Certain groups were more likely than others to seek out electronic contact; younger, non-white, more educated people with higher incomes were the most likely to want to be able to contact their doctors through these nontraditional routes.
More than half (57%) said they wanted to be able to access health data via their doctors’ websites, and 46% said they wanted to access their information by email. However, researchers noted, few respondents had actually used existing online patient portals. Only 7% had accessed their health info through a provider’s website. So education, as well as technical innovation, may be part of the picture when it comes to providing the electronic access patients are asking for.
The full study, led by Joy Lee of Johns Hopkins, has been published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
Is Web-Based Access Plausible?
Given the relatively rapid adoption of electronic health records/medical records, it’s not a huge stretch to look at web based electronic medical records that can provide the type of access patients are asking for (and many web EMRs do include a patient portal). Between 2001 and 2013, the percentage of office-based physicians using EMR software went from 18% to 78%; adoption went up by 21% between 2012 and 2013 alone. Moreover, that EMR software is getting better. Between 2010 (the earliest year for which data is available) and 2013, the percentage of physicians using EMR or EHR systems able to support federal “Stage 2” meaningful use rose significantly.
Of course, there are obstacles to providing as much access as patients seem to want through existing social platforms such as Facebook. Most of those have to do with data security and privacy concerns. It’s more likely that medical software companies will need to focus on user-friendly secure messaging services instead.