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Most Americans Think Health Care System Needs Major Surgery

WEDNESDAY, April 6 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. health care system is in need of a major overhaul, according to 72 percent of American adults who took part in a national survey.

That opinion reflects respondents' concerns about lack of access to health care, poor coordination of care and increasing costs, according to researchers at the Commonwealth Fund, which released the survey results Wednesday.

The survey found that 71 percent of participants said they had trouble gaining access to needed health care, including being unable to get timely doctors' appointments or advice from their doctors on the phone, or receiving after-hours care without going to a hospital emergency department.

More than half (54 percent) said they'd received wasteful care and 47 percent said they had experienced poorly coordinated care. About 20 percent said they or a family member suffered an infection or complication as a result of medical care, or said that a health care provider made a medical or surgical error.

For most, the future of health care seems uncertain, with 74 percent of respondents saying they're worried they won't receive high-quality care when they need it, or that they won't be able to afford their medical bills if they suffer a serious health problem.

"It's not surprising that people worry about the future, given the problems they are currently experiencing in the health care system," Cathy Schoen, report co-author and Commonwealth Fund senior vice president, said in a foundation news release.

"Health care is too often unaffordable, hard to get when needed, and wasteful or poorly coordinated. The good news is that the Affordable Care Act is focused on addressing many of these issues, with provisions encouraging the kind of health care people want -- care that is affordable, accessible, patient-centered and well-coordinated, with clinicians working together in teams," she explained.

The survey also found that 88 percent of participants want their doctors to use electronic medical records and 92 percent believe it's important or very important for doctors to share information electronically with other doctors. Many respondents said they want to use technology to manage their own health care -- such as making appointments online or having access to their medical records -- but for now, only 14 percent of those with Internet access can get their medical records online and only 20 percent can schedule appointments electronically or email their doctors.

More information

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality offers a guide to health care quality.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Commonwealth Fund, news release, April 6, 2011

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