Poll Shows Americans Value EMR Benefits Over Privacy Concerns

David St.Clair, for HealthLeaders Media , January 21, 2008
A recent article on The Wall Street Journal online reported on a poll the newspaper conducted along with Harris Interactive that found most Americans think electronic medical records can improve healthcare in this country and that EMR benefits overshadow any potential privacy risks.

As those who are familiar with MEDecision might imagine, this was music to our collective ears (or eyes, as it were). The WSJ/Harris poll bears out an important belief we've held for some time; one that I've represented in various public forums on several occasions: By all means, privacy concerns are real and legitimate when we talk about the proliferation of health information exchange and EMRs. However, we can't let ourselves get so caught up in the privacy issue that we compromise progress on the greater matter at hand, which is electronically gathering and deploying clinical information to improve care. In other words, the greater risk right now is not the misuse of clinical information, it's the non-use of it.

Apparently, a majority of Americans agree with our reasoning. According to the WSJ/Harris poll, about 60 percent of the people surveyed said that the benefits of EMRs outweigh potential security risks. Three-quarters of people surveyed said they think that care would improve if doctors and other parties could share information electronically. More than 60 percent thought that sharing information would decrease medical errors and over 50 percent think doing so could lower costs.

The WSJ article went on to mention that technology is likely to become a large part of the healthcare debate in the 2008 elections, and I'm inclined to agree. Based on the results of the poll, however, it looks like consumer confidence in EMRs is growing, which should send a message to our politicians that America is ready to move forward with them.

David St.Clair is founder and CEO of MEDecision.
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