Background: Middle class populations have supported shared medical records, including Internet-accessible medical records. The attitudes of lower income populations, and of physicians, are less clear.
Objectives: The objective of this study was to compare the attitudes toward shared outpatient medical records among (1) socioeconomically disadvantaged patients in community health centers, (2) insured patients in primary care offices, and (3) a broad range of physicians in outpatient practice.
Methods: Written questionnaires were provided to patients in the waiting rooms of six primary care practices in the metropolitan Denver, Colorado area. Three practices were community health centers, and three practices were primary care clinics of an academic medical center. Questionnaires were also mailed to primary care physicians in the state of Colorado.
Results: There was a 79% response rate for patient surveys (601 surveys returned) and a 53% response rate for physician surveys (564 surveys returned). Academic medical center patients and community health center patients were equally likely to endorse shared medical records (94% vs 96%) and Internet-accessible records (54% vs 57%). Community health center patients were more likely than academic medical center patients to anticipate the benefits of shared medical records (mean number of expected benefits = 7.9 vs 7.1, P < .001), and they were also somewhat more likely to anticipate problems with shared records. Significant predictors of patient endorsement of Internet-accessible records were previous use of the Internet (OR = 2.45, CI 1.59-3.79), the number of expected benefits (OR = 1.12 per unit, CI 1.03-1.21), anticipation of asking more questions between visits (OR = 1.73, CI 1.18-2.54), and anticipation of finding the doctors' notes to be confusing (OR = 1.50, CI 1.01-2.22). Physicians were significantly more likely than patients to anticipate that access to records would cause problems. Physicians were significantly less likely than patients to anticipate benefits (mean number of expected benefits = 4.2 vs 7.5, P < .001).
Conclusions: Interest in shared medical records is not confined to a white, middle class population. Shared medical records are almost universally endorsed across a broad range of ethnic and socioeconomic groups. A majority of patients are also interested in Internet-accessible records, but a substantial minority is not. The primary determinants of support of Internet-accessible records are not age, race, or education level; rather, they are previous experience with the Internet and patients' expectations of the benefits and drawbacks of reading their medical records. Physicians have more concerns about shared medical records and see less potential for benefit. The attitudes of patients and physicians may need to be reconciled for widespread adoption of shared medial records to be achieved.