Doctors and patients divided over medical records

  • Accenture survey assesses adoption and attitudes towards digital health tools and electronic health records
  • 81% of patients, but only 22% of doctors, believe patients should have full access to their own electronic medical records
  • The number of patients who know what data they can access in their medical records has increased to 38%
  • 72% of patients want to see exactly the same information their doctor sees
  • 28% of patients are likely to access their records to stay informed, versus 10%, who would use them to track the progression of medical illness or disease (28% versus 10%)
  • The areas cited most often by consumers for using their EHRs include having access to prescription medication history (26%) and having access to their physician’s notes about the visit (22%)
  • The research covered seven countries, including England

A new survey has uncovered a divide between patients and doctors in England over who should be able to access medical records.

The findings, published by Accenture, found the divide on who should see electronic health records (EHRs) has widened from two years ago – with patients almost four times as likely as doctors to believe they should have full access to their records.

While the findings show that the number of consumers who believe they should have full access has increased over the past two years - from 77% in 2014 to 81% today – the number of doctors who shared that belief dropped significantly, from 34% to 22% over the same period.

These findings – part of a seven-country survey of roughly 8,000 consumers, including 1,009 in England – also found that the number of patients who know exactly what data they can access in their EHRs has increased from 21% in 2014 to 38% today.

With digitisation driving a new level of information parity, doctors need to embrace, not resist, the notion of patients having complete access to their records

“Until now, the flow of clinical information has been to the doctor,” said Aimie Chapple, managing director of UK health industry and UK Ireland client innovation at Accenture.

“With digitisation driving a new level of information parity, doctors need to embrace, not resist, the notion of patients having complete access to their records.”

The Accenture survey also found that most consumers (72%) want to see exactly what the doctor sees – not a summary.

However, significantly more consumers are likely to access their EHR to stay informed than they are to track the progression of medical illness or disease (28% versus 10%).

The areas cited most often by consumers for using their EHRs to manage their health include having access to prescription medication history (26%) and having access to their physician’s notes about the visit (22%).

Consumers also have strong views on who should access their EHR data. While nearly three quarters (71%) view an EHR as a tool for their primary doctor, only 3% believe that a government organisation or employer should have access to their records. Interestingly, only 6% of consumers believe a retail clinic should have access to their records.

In addition, the majority believe they should be able to update certain information in their EHR, including family medical history (cited by 76%), new symptoms (74%), demographic information (70%), changes in symptoms (74%) and personal medical history (68%).

The number of doctors who believe patients should also be able to update various elements of their own records was similar to that for consumers.

The more a patient understands about themselves, the more they can take an active role in managing their own health

“When health information is completely transparent, the relationship between a doctor and patient grows stronger,” said Chapple.

“The more a patient understands about themselves, the more they can take an active role in managing their own health.”

Accenture commissioned the survey to assess adoption and attitudes toward digital health tools, electronic health records, and healthcare providers’ electronic capabilities.

The seven countries represented were the United States, Australia, Brazil, England, Norway, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore.