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Pros and Cons of Electronic Medical Records Weighed

Better access to patient information could improve care, but privacy a concern, doctors say

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 16 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. physicians support the use of electronic medical records, but widespread concerns exist about privacy problems, two new studies show.

One study of more than 1,000 family practice and specialist doctors in Massachusetts found that 86 percent believed electronic health information exchange (HIE) would improve patient quality of care, 70 percent thought it would reduce costs and 76 percent said it would save time.

However, 16 percent said they were "very concerned" about possible privacy breaches, while a further 55 percent were "somewhat concerned." The study also found that none of the doctors wanted to pay the suggested $150 monthly fee for HIE and about half said they weren't willing to pay any fee.

The second study, which included 56 psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses and therapists at an academic medical center, found that most believed electronic health records were clearer and more complete than paper records, but not necessarily more factual.

However, 63 percent said they were less willing to record highly confidential information in a patient's electronic health record than on a paper record. And 83 percent said if they were a patient, they wouldn't want their mental health records to be routinely accessed by other health-care providers.

"Designers of future systems will need to enhance electronic file security and simultaneously maintain legitimate accessibility in order to preserve confidence in psychiatric and other [electronic health record] systems," the researchers concluded.

Both studies are published in the January issue of the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has more about personal health records.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, news release, Dec. 15, 2009

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