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Research: Consumers Eager To Use Online Health Care Tools, But Physicians Report Health IT Systems Lag

A new Optum Institute/Harris Interactive national survey published today provides new insights into U.S. consumers’ willingness to go online to view their medical records and engage with care providers.

While 70 percent of physicians surveyed have basic Electronic Medical Record (EMR) capabilities, only 40 percent of physicians say they have the capability to engage with patients via email or provide patients with access to their health records.

Consumers are clearly ready to use technology-enabled features today: three out of four consumers say they are willing to go online to view their medical records, and more than 60 percent want to communicate with their doctors via email or the Internet.

“Nearly two decades after email has become widespread, most patients say they want to – but still can’t – email their care provider,” said Simon Stevens, chairman of the Optum Institute. “This research underlines the need for health information systems that can talk to each other, and that allow patients to access their own health information.”

Key Survey Findings

The survey gauges the opinions of consumers, physicians and hospital executives on the current state of patient engagement and Health Information Technology (Health IT) adoption. The survey identified several key themes that make a compelling case for increased deployment of technology-based tools that enhance patient engagement:
  • Consumers are ready to use Health IT today: three out of four consumers are willing to go online to view their medical records; more than 60 percent want the ability to communicate with their doctor by email or Internet.
  • It is not just the young who are online. More than half of all seniors surveyed (57 percent) are ready to go online to manage their health and communicate with their care providers.
  • Mobile devices offer opportunities to connect quickly and easily, but also carry security concerns; the young, minorities and Medicaid beneficiaries especially want to communicate with care providers via text messaging.

“While hospitals and physicians have made considerable progress in adopting new technologies, our research underscores the pressing need to increase the level of patient-facing technology to create strong, two-way patient-physician communication,” said Carol Simon, director of the Optum Institute. “This survey is part of the Optum Institute’s mission to understand and further the development of clinically integrated, financially viable health systems that increase the quality of care.”

The full issue brief and survey results are available via the research center of the Optum Institute website.

MethodologyThis survey was conducted online within the United States among 1,000 U.S. physicians, 2,870 U.S. adults, and 400 U.S. hospital executives between May 20 and June 12, 2012. Results were weighted to reflect the respective populations of interest: physician results were weighted to represent national characteristics of patient care physicians, based on the AMA Masterfile; consumer results were weighted to represent the demographics of the U.S. general population aged 18 and above; hospital results were weighted to represent the hospital distribution in the US according to bed size and region.

About the Optum InstituteOptum established the Optum Institute to serve as an authoritative source of analytic insights on the rapidly changing U.S. health care landscape, while acting as a constructive enabler of sustainable health communities. The Optum Institute works in partnership with consumers, health professionals, hospitals, employers, governments, health plans and the life sciences industry to help transform health care delivery. More information is available at

About OptumOptum ( is a leading information and technology-enabled health services business dedicated to helping make the health system work better for everyone. Optum comprises three companies – OptumHealth, OptumInsight and OptumRx – representing over 35,000 employees worldwide who collaborate to deliver integrated, intelligent solutions that work to modernize the health system and improve overall population health.

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