Australian doctors give patients less control over their e-health records: survey

More than three-quarters of doctors surveyed say sharing electronic health records has reduced errors

Doctors in Australia are more resistant to giving patients’ control over electronic health records than doctors in other countries, according to an Accenture survey.

Accenture surveyed 3700 doctors in eight countries, including 500 doctors in Australia. The survey was conducted during November to December 2012.

Australia’s personally controlled electronic health record (PCEHR) scheme has had a slow start despite support by government and prominent healthcare CIOs.

Most of the Australian doctors surveyed support limiting patients' ability to update their electronic health records. Only 18 per cent said patients should have full access to their own records.

The survey also found 77 per cent of Australian doctors surveyed said that sharing health records electronically reduced medical errors last year. Also, 83 per cent said they actively used electronic medical records and about 70 per cent reported improved quality of diagnostic and treatment decisions by using shared electronic records.

Accenture reported a 62 per cent increase since 2011 in the number of Australian doctors who reported routinely accessing electronic health records previously seen by a different health organisation. Australian doctors also increased routine use of receiving patients’ clinical results electronically by 67 per cent, entering patient notes during or after consultations by 64 per cent, and receiving electronic alerts or reminders while seeing patients by 44 per cent.

Despite growth in those areas, only 5 per cent of Australian doctors said they routinely communicate electronically with patients.

Most Australian doctors support letting patients update standard information like demographics (87 per cent) and family medical history (78 per cent). But nearly a third of the doctors oppose patients updating medications, medication side effects or allergic episodes, and more than half oppose patients updating lab test results.

Accenture said the number of Australian doctors surveyed who limit patients' control over their electronic records is higher than in other countries.

“Australian doctors are increasingly embracing electronic medical records to improve the quality of care provided and clinical outcomes,” said Leigh Donoghue, managing director of Accenture’s health business in Australia and New Zealand.

“However, there is clearly more to be done in terms of enabling consumers to play an active role in their own care. This requires a shift in the way clinicians think and interact with patients, harnessing new technologies such as electronic health records and mobile devices.”

Smartphones, faster broadband and a growing number of healthcare apps have increased patient demand to have greater control over their health records, Donoghue said.

“To meet changing consumer expectations, Australian doctor’s views on patient access will need to evolve,” he said. “It’s difficult to predict how quickly this shift will happen or where it will lead, but it looks unlikely to happen in a way that doctors and administrators have fully anticipated or feel comfortable with.”

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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