Washington - Americans show a strong interest in controlling their own electronic medical records, according to a national survey released at a health IT conference.

Adults favor providers (51% over 17%) and insurance carriers (68% over 16%) who use electronic medical records over those who do not, indicates a study by StrategyOne, an independent public opinion research company, on behalf of Kaiser Permanente. Results were released at an event called "Health IT: Unlocking the Potential."

Insurance companies are stakeholders in the movement toward portable health records, with some carriers working to establish the Nationwide Health Information Network, a system to allow patients to manage their own health care records, move the records when they change jobs and share the records with insurers when they buy a policy.

Meanwhile, the study also confirms what past surveys have found: Large numbers of consumers seek general health information online through Web sites, such as Web MD. Likewise, online searches are on the location and management of personal health information.

While 12% of Americans review their medical records on health insurance company's Web sites, more than half say they would like to check claims and coverage (56%) or have electronic access to personal records (51%) in the future.

"It is clear that Americans are ready to enter a digital health care age," said George Halvorson, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc.

American adults overwhelmingly believe (at 72%) that a computer system is more efficient than a paper system to manage medical records. But survey respondents still harbor trepidation about electronic medical records compared with paper records. Forty seven percent say paper is more secure, compared to 42% who believe electronic records are more secure.

Still, nearly three in four Americans (73%) believe the benefits of electronic records, such as better care in emergencies and reduction in medical errors, outweigh potential privacy risks.

While interest in the technology runs high, not enough information is shared with patients about its value to their own health care, the study shows. More than half of those surveyed (57%) did not recall seeing, hearing or reading about electronic records before the survey.

Awareness of electronic medical and health records "will be the key to wider adoption," says Myrl Weinberg, president of the National Health Council. "The more familiar patients get with this technology, the more they will see its relevance to their own lives."

Source: Kaiser Permanente

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