Half Of Americans Unable To Access Vital Records Quickly During An Emergency

Armen Hareyan's picture

Natural disasters and other emergency situations highlight the need for quick access to vital documents such as marriage and birth certificates, passports, property titles as well as personal health records (PHRs).

Yet, a recent Harris Interactive study of adults in the United States shows that in the event of an emergency, nearly sixty percent would be unable to access their family's vital records within thirty minutes -- not nearly enough time in the event they were ordered to immediately evacuate their homes. Furthermore, merely one in five (20 percent) report they have copies of their own family's medical records. About one in four (27 percent) believe they have access to their own medical records.

"Recent events such as Hurricane Katrina and the Southern California fires illustrate the importance of being able to access vital documents quickly," said Robert Lorsch, founder and CEO of MyMedicalRecords.com. "In the digital age, there is no reason for these important records to remain in paper files and scrapbooks that can be destroyed in minutes. Maintaining medical care and rebuilding lives is easier if family records can be accessed from any computer and emailed or downloaded."

Alexian Brothers Hospital Network (ABHN), a hospital and healthcare system in Northern Illinois has recognized the need for easier access to medical and other records, and has partnered with MyMedicalRecords.com to provide PHRs to patients and staff. The program, ABHN On-line, provides patients and staff access to and management of their own health information in a secure web-based environment. Patients will have easy access to their discharge record, including documents used while they are in the hospital including laboratory results, radiology reports and prescription history.

In addition to their discharge record, users of ABHN On-line can also store and manage personal health and medical records from all of their providers, as well as store vital documents such as Birth Certificates, Wills and Advance Directives, insurance and legal documents, as well as photos of family, pets and personal property. Each personal health record holds information for up to ten family members. The program also enables the hospital to maintain better communication with patients and staff, including sending treatment reminders wellness newsletters to anyone with an account. Five thousand ABHN employees have received accounts.


"Alexian Brothers Hospital Network is committed to providing high quality, technologically advanced care to the community," said Mark Frey, CEO, Alexian Brothers Hospital Network. "We believe this partnership program will empower patients to manage their health, providing better health outcomes and greater efficiency."

In addition to access, many are touting the benefits of PHRs in improving quality and reducing costs in healthcare. According to the Rand Corporation, the total efficiency gains from the adoption of Health IT could be as much as $316 billion per year. These studies cite disorganization and inaccurate information leading to the improvident spending, as well as unneeded tests and ineffective procedures. Many also cite other benefits, including improved patient safety and a reduction in prescription errors.

About the Study

This Personal Health Records study was conducted online by Harris Interactive within the United States on behalf of the Alexian Brothers Hospital Network (ABHN) and MyMedicalRecords.com between November 7 and November 9, 2007 among 2,628 U.S. adults ages 18+. Results were weighted as needed for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region, and household income.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the U.S. adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to be invited to participate in the