Docs adopt and adapt, yet still cling to old ways
The technology takeover has begun, and physicians nationwide are acclimating one step at a time, a new physician survey reveals. Laptop, smartphone and iPad usage is increasingly common among U.S. physicians, but the report finds old-fashioned methods of communication continuing to stand their ground.
The second annual National Physicians Survey, conducted by the little blue book and Sharecare, polled 1,190 U.S. practitioners representing more than 75 medical specialties. It reveals physicians' perceptions about the ongoing changes in the healthcare system and how those changes are impacting their daily practices as well as their ability to provide optimal patient care.
Two out of three physicians (66 percent) say the integration of electronic medical records (EMRs) is among their practice challenges. Despite that, most doctors (66 percent) acknowledge EMRs will at least improve or have a neutral effect on their future business.
Almost one out of three doctors (30 percent) are using laptops regularly for e-prescribing, EMRs and more. Almost a quarter (20 percent) are using smartphones, and 12 percent use iPads, for clinical needs.
Additional survey highlights:
- Peer-to-peer communication is occurring via email – despite not being a "secure channel."
- Thirty-four percent of physicians communicate with other clinicians via email – not defined as a "secure channel" by HIPAA.
- Telephone (95 percent) and fax (63 percent) are still the primary forms of communication.
- A dinosaur in most other office environments today, the fax is still king with physicians, supporting hand-written notes, insurance forms and lab test result transmissions.
- Fifty-eight percent of doctors communicate with peers in person.
- Five percent use social networking sites
- Doctor-to-patient communication remains fairly traditional, with some online inroads.
- The majority of physicians (91 percent) talk with patients via phone, 84 percent in person, 20 percent via email, 8 percent via personal health records (PHRs) and 6 percent via text.
- Few physicians are opting for solo practices these days -- a good portion are "employed" by hospitals, large practices or accountable care organizations (ACOs).
- Twenty-two percent of physicians are in ACO talks, up from 12 percent last year
- Of those who said they were aware of ACOs, 37 percent stated that they would participate as a member of a group practice, 27 percent as a member of a physician-hospital organization, 10 percent as a hospital-employed physician.
- Only 17 percent of the respondents were unfamiliar with the ACO term, down from 45 percent last year.
Doctors say new patients find them via:
- Word of mouth (71 percent)
- Practice networks referrals (33 percent)
- Print directories (29 percent)
- Internet searches (22 percent)
Despite an onslaught of healthcare regulations and requirements and shrinking practice margins, physicians are finding some advocates.