US Doctors Less Sanguine About Health IT’s Benefits

Posted by

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn

Posted 1/10/12 on Health Populi

To doctors working in eight countries around the globe, the biggest benefit of health IT is better access to quality data for clinical access, followed by reducing medical errors, improving coordination of care across care settings, and improving cross-organizational workflow.

However, except for the issue of health IT’s potential to improve cross-organizational working processes, American doctors have lower expectations about these benefits than their peers who work in the 7 other nations polled in a global study from Accenture‘s Eight-Country Survey of Doctors Shows Agreement on Top Healthcare Information Technology Benefits, But a Generational Divide Exists. Accenture polled over 3,700 doctors working in Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Singapore, Spain and the US.

As the subtitle of the report recognizes, there is an age chasm at the age of 50: physicians under 50 years of age more likely believe in the benefits of health IT; fewer older doctors do, on a global basis. Accenture points out that younger doctors are comfortable using computers during patient interactions in the exam room, compared with older physicians who prefer face-to-face conversations without what they may perceive as a disruptive interruption of looking at a keyboard or computer screen.

Physicians that more frequently use health IT are also more likely to believe in the benefits of health IT: Accenture measured 12 functions of EMRs and HIEs and found that those who more fully interact with these features perceive the fruits of the systems. 87% of doctors who use at least 9 of the 12 applications see positive impacts in using health IT; only 64% of doctors who use 4 or fewer functions believe in the positive benefits of health IT.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: American doctors are more skeptical about the use of health information technology than their colleagues in Asia, Europe and North America. US doctors are also live subjects in the experiment that is the adoption of health care information technology as part of the HITECH Act, working hard to demonstrate meaningful use to earn financial incentives in Stage 1 this year.

Meaningful use, in fact, deals with those kinds of functions that Accenture measured, finding that the more functions a doctor uses, the more likely he/she will appreciate the fruits of health IT in terms of patient outcomes, productive workflows, reducing medical errors, and reducing the risk of litigation.

US doctors are playing catch-up with their global colleagues. This is yet another benefit of the HITECH Act that doesn’t get enough attention.

One comment

  1. The inescapable immediate conclusion is that American docs are curmudgeons. But the real answer is almost certainly something deeper and more meaningful than that.

    I’d wager that, instead, American EMRs reflect the structural peculiarities of our own health system. They are overly expensive, isolated from talking with other machines, and designed to optimize billing/collections rather than care. In other words, our physicians work with poorer quality systems, at least for managing the care process, than do physicians in other countries.

    I can’t think of any other explanation that fits.

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