Thursday, October 7, 2010

Blue Button for Downloading Health Information

New Markle Survey Finds U.S. Public and Doctors Alike Support ‘Blue Button’ for Downloading Health Information

· Roughly 2 in 3 of the public and doctors agree that people should be able to download their personal health information.
· Government leads the way: Both Medicare and the VA for the first time ever offer a blue button for beneficiaries and veterans.
· Delivering electronic copies to patients is important, majority of public says, for billions in health IT incentives to doctors and hospitals to be well-spent.
· More than 80 percent of the public and doctors call privacy safeguards an important requirement for health IT incentives program.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Both the U.S. public and doctors overwhelmingly agree that people should be able to go online to download copies of their medical information, according to a new survey released today by the Markle Foundation.

Snapshots of the Markle Survey on Health in a Networked Life 2010—the first of its kind to compare public and doctor priorities for health information technology—will be previewed at the Health 2.0 conference this week in San Francisco.

“Seventy percent of the public and 65 percent of the doctors agreed with the concept of a blue button that you can click to download your own health information,” said Carol Diamond, MD, MPH, managing director at the New York-based non-profit Markle Foundation.

Medicare and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are preparing this fall, for the first time ever, for beneficiaries and veterans to have a blue button to download their claims or medical information from the MyMedicare.gov and My HealtheVet secure websites.

“With U.S. veterans now gaining access to a blue button, and Medicare beneficiaries soon to follow, these surveys indicate solid majorities of support among the public and doctors polled,” Diamond said.

“This represents a remarkable agreement between the general population and doctors,” Diamond said. “In fact, only 7 percent of the public and only 15 percent of the doctors disagreed with a statement that patients should be able to download copies of their pertinent health information.”

The new Markle survey offers a first-ever comparison of public and physician views on key issues surrounding health information technology, including their views on the new federal incentives to stimulate use of health IT. Different thematic elements of the findings will be released in coming months.

The new federal rules require health care providers and hospitals to give patients electronic copies of their lists of medications, after-visit summaries, lab results, and other pertinent information in order to qualify for an estimated $27 billion in federal subsidies for using health information technology. The program, now being rolled out as required by the Recovery Act, is designed to make the sharing of patient information more efficient.

Sixty-two percent of the public and 49 percent of the doctors surveyed said that for the billions in dollars of federal incentives to be well-spent, it’s important for the program to set requirements that participating doctors and hospitals supply patients with electronic copies of their personal health information. Only 8 percent of the public and 21 percent of the doctors felt that providing electronic copies to patients was not an important requirement for the program.

But overwhelming majorities of the public and of doctors surveyed also want to make sure the money comes with privacy safeguards.

“As with our past surveys, we found that privacy protections are a high priority,” Diamond said. “When asked about requirements necessary to make sure that federal incentive money for health IT would be well-spent, more than 80 percent of both the public and doctors said privacy safeguards were important.”

Despite the strong support for the idea of downloading personal health information, 83 percent of the public said they never ask for their information in electronic format. The vast majority of the doctors said requests from patients for information in electronic format either rarely (24 percent) or never (67 percent) occurred.

“The blue button can help raise awareness about the need to engage patients and their families through health IT,” said Josh Lemieux, director of personal health technology at Markle. “Providing secure, convenient access to their information is a building block to helping people improve their health and communicate better with nurses and doctors.”

The Markle Connecting for Health collaborators recently published a set of privacy practices for the blue button download capability supported by 50 organizations representing technology companies, insurers, provider groups, and consumer and privacy advocates. Those practices are part of the Markle Common Framework for Networked Personal Health Information, which recommends policy and technology safeguards to encourage individual access to information and privacy.

The surveys were conducted between August 10 and 26, 2010, by Knowledge Networks (KN). The general population survey of 1,582 adults age 18 and older was conducted using KN’s KnowledgePanel®, a probability-based panel of 50,000 individuals designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The survey of 779 physicians was conducted using KN’s Physicians Consulting Network (PCN), an invitation-only list of more than 45,000 practicing physicians.

The Markle Foundation works to realize the full potential of information and information technology to address critical public needs, particularly in the areas of health and national security. Markle collaborates with innovators and thought leaders from the public and private sectors whose expertise lies in the areas of information technology, privacy, civil liberties, health, and national security. Learn more about Markle at www.markle.org.

Markle Connecting for Health is a public-private collaborative with representatives from more than one hundred organizations across the spectrum of health care and information technology specialists. Its purpose is to catalyze the widespread changes necessary to realize the full benefits of health information technology while protecting patient privacy and the security of personal health information. Markle Connecting for Health tackles the key challenges to creating a networked health information environment that enables secure and private information sharing when and where it is needed to improve health and health care. Learn more about Markle Connecting for Health at www.connectingforhealth.org.

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