Survey puts spotlight on healthcare paper jungle

By Bernie Monegain
09:14 AM

The average patient's health in the United States is dependent on at least 200 pieces of paper in about 19 different locations, according to a new study.

GfK Roper conducted the survey for Practice Fusion, a Web-based electronic health record company that offers free EHRs.

The survey found that American patients have seen an average of 18.7 different doctors during their lives. For patients over 65 years of age, the average increases to 28.4 individual doctors, including primary care, specialists, hospital and urgent care providers.

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The study also asserts that the vast majority of medical records in the United States are still on paper, with the average appointment taking 13 pages to document.

"Paper medical records are an absurd way to practice modern medicine," said Ryan Howard, CEO of Practice Fusion. "The average person has over a dozen charts of medical history scattered around the country. This is data that – if accessible – could save you from duplicate procedures, could improve the quality of care you receive or could save your life. There are almost 200,000 deaths a year from preventable medical errors, partly because this information is not readily available to specialists and emergency rooms."

The Practice Fusion survey conducted by GfK Roper asked 1,035 adults aged 18 or older how many individual doctors they estimated they had seen in their lifetime, inclusive of all primary care, specialists, hospital and urgent care providers.

The resulting averages exceeded predictions and illuminate a widespread disorder in the traditional paper medical record system, Howard said.

Among the survey findings are:

  • The average number of doctors seen for all survey participants was 18.7.  For 18-24 year olds, the average was 8.3. For patients over 65, the average was 28.4.
  • Women reported having seen more doctors on average (20.6) than men (16.7).
  • Patients with income under $20,000 a year reported seeing more doctors on average (22.4) than the patients with incomes over $75,000 a year (18.1).
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