PCEHR awareness low, support high

A survey of consumer and healthcare provider attitudes towards the PCEHR has found that while the majority of respondents support its implementation, few are even aware of its existence and only 50 per cent intend to sign up.

The survey, designed by Elin Lehnbom, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Centre for Health Systems and Safety Research at the University of NSW, set out to assess the awareness, knowledge and attitudes of healthcare providers and consumers towards the PCEHR. The results were presented at the National Medicines Symposium in Sydney last week.

The survey follows a qualitative study conducted by the research team, which also includes Jo-anne Brien, professor of clinical pharmacy, and Andrew McLachlan, associated dean of research and professor of pharmacy at the University of Sydney, in December 2010.

It involved 203 consumers and 202 healthcare providers, who were selected by online research firm The Digital Edge from its consumer panel of 70,000 people, which Dr Lehnbom said was representative of the Australian population.

“Our sample size calculation indicated that 400 respondents would be enough to find a difference in awareness, knowledge and attitudes between healthcare providers and consumers,” she said.

The survey asked a number of questions to assess three things: initial awareness of the PCEHR, and then knowledge of it and attitudes towards it after being provided with a series of statements.

“To assess awareness we asked respondents to answer yes or no to 'Before today, had you ever heard of eHealth/IEHR/PCEHR/shared EMR/Google Health',” Dr Lehnbom said.

“To assess knowledge we constructed seven statements and respondents were asked to indicate whether the statement was true or false. For example: 'Your personally controlled electronic health record will be stored electronically on a portable disk or similar device (e.g. USB) and you will need to bring it with you to appointments with healthcare providers' and 'Having a personally controlled electronic health record will be voluntary'.”

To assess attitudes, the researchers presented respondents with a series of statements and asked them to indicate their agreement or disagreement on a five-point Likert scale, with the answers ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree, she said.

The statements included 'I support the implementation of PCEHR' and 'I will sign up to have a PCEHR' and 'I would leave out certain sensitive/embarrassing information from my PCEHR'.

The survey found that only 8.9 per cent of all respondents were initially aware of the PCEHR. Once informed of what it was, 57 per cent of all respondents then agreed with its implementation. Almost 70 per cent said they trusted there would be appropriate measures to protect their privacy, and just over 60 per cent agreed that healthcare providers with access to their patient’s PCEHR will be able to provide better quality of care.

However, only 50.1 per cent indicated they will sign up to have a PCEHR. The figures for support and readiness to sign up were relatively similar between consumers and providers, although more providers were aware of its existence than consumers.

Dr Lehnbom said the interviews the team conducted before the survey indicated that healthcare providers claimed to know about or be aware of the PCEHR. “However, when asked to describe what a PCEHR will be most couldn't, or they described it as a complete health record. So we weren't really surprised about the lack of knowledge. We were surprised about the lack of awareness.”

The researchers warned that misinformation about the PCEHR may lead to unrealistic expectations about the benefits it might bring and thus result in disappointment. This could lead to a low uptake, they believe. They concluded that consumer opt-in may be encouraged by healthcare providers during face to face consultations.

The qualitative study in which the team interviewed healthcare providers and consumers about their understanding of the PCEHR is currently in press for the Studies in Health Technology and Informatics journal and will be presented at the upcoming Health Informatics Conference in Sydney, being held from July 30 to August 2.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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