American Docs Question Health IT’s Benefits

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U.S. physicians are less likely than doctors in other countries to think that healthcare IT can improve diagnostic decisions, according to an Accenture survey of 3,700 doctors in eight countries. Additionally, only 47% of U.S. doctors report that healthcare technology has helped improve the quality of treatment decisions, compared to 61% of the other physicians interviewed. Only 45% think that technology leads to improved health outcomes for patients, against a survey average of 59%.

“The survey of doctors shows that more needs to be done to bridge the disconnect in perception and impact of health IT benefits,” Kaveh Safavi, Accenture’s health practice lead in North America, told InformationWeek Healthcare. “However, despite the high-level skepticism of technology, U.S. physicians have made progress in implementing healthcare IT for practices relating to disease management.”
Physicians were asked about the extent to which they used 12 different functions of healthcare IT, including electronic entry of patient notes, electronic referrals to or from other physicians, electronic ordering, electronic prescribing and communicating with other physicians or patients via secure email. As expected, the survey found that physicians who were routine users of a wider range of healthcare IT functions have a more positive attitude toward the benefits these technologies bring.

In assessing the reason why less than half of U.S physicians believe that healthcare IT can improve diagnostic decisions, improve health outcomes for patients, or improve the quality of treatment decisions, Safavi said many U.S. doctors are still in the early stages of adopting electronic health records and other clinical decision support systems and therefore do not as yet have the full processes and support systems in place to provide measurable results.

Slow adoption rates for key technologies, lack of information sharing between enterprises, inadequate IT staff or shortage of IT skills at health delivery organizations, and resistance from patients over privacy concerns also hold back the U.S. healthcare system’s ability to advance the use of health IT. These dynamics all are affecting how physicians see the future of technology in ensuring better patient care and lower healthcare costs, Safavi said.

The survey did find areas of agreement among physicians in all eight countries. For example, there was strong agreement that health IT can help physicians better access quality data for clinical research (70.9%); better coordinate care across care settings and service boundaries (69.1%); improve cross-organizational working processes (67.9%); and reduce medical errors (66%).