Paperwork and Cost Barriers Causing Low Numbers of Wellness Visits

August 20, 2009

A new study by IBM shows that a large portion of Americans find filling out “repetitive paperwork” at the doctor’s office to be a waste of time; the study also reveals that a large majority of Americans feel the need for more access to their physicians.

A new study by IBM shows that a large portion of Americans find filling out “repetitive paperwork” at the doctor’s office to be a waste of time; the study also reveals that a large majority of Americans feel the need for more access to their physicians.

Among the patients surveyed who had not been to the doctor for a wellness visit in the past five years, 33% felt that filling out paperwork was “a waste of time.” In comparison, the 17% of patients surveyed who had been for a wellness visit in the past five years also found paperwork to be a problem. Of respondents, 70% who had been to the emergency room five or more times in the past year stated that “more access to their doctors— including the ability to contact them after-hours—could help them avoid unnecessary ER visits.”

In regard to their ability to use technology as a tool for physician interaction, fewer than 20% of patients surveyed said that their physicians had a website that was used for patient—doctor communication. However, among patients who did use technology in their healthcare, such as an EHR, the researchers saw a positive response: 54% of patients were “interested in viewing their medical records online,” and 60% of Americans between ages 18 and 29 years would like to have “online access to their records.”

More than one-half of patients who were older than age 50 years stated that they would also like to be able to access their medical records online. More than one-half of respondents also cited cost as a “barrier to wellness visits,” with 38% stating that they “don't believe it's worth the expense,” and more than one-third of those surveyed calling wellness visits “an abuse of the healthcare system.”

"The survey shows that people need better access to primary care, and they must build a close relationship with their family doctor who can coach them on their health," said Paul Grundy, IBM Director of Health Care Transformation. "Primary care helps people establish a proactive approach to healthcare that will keep them healthier in the long run and save significantly on medical costs."

A phone survey of 1,000 adults age 18 years and older, consisting of a representative sample of insured, underinsured, and uninsured patients, was conducted by Braun Research for the IBM Health Care Survey. Data was collected between June 25 and 29 of this year.