U.S. docs rate IT benefits lower than docs around the world

By Bernie Monegain
10:52 AM

Doctors who routinely use health IT perceived more benefits in improving healthcare delivery, according to a new Accenture survey of more than 3,700 doctors across eight countries

There is common agreement on the top benefits of technology across countries, the survey revealed, but some physicians do not yet see all the benefits – especially those over age 50 or those who are not actively using healthcare IT such as electronic medical records and health information exchange.
The physician quantitative research – part of an Accenture Connected Health Study that will be published in the coming weeks – surveyed 500 doctors per country in Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Spain and the United States and 200 doctors in Singapore between August and September 2011. The research measured physician attitudes toward connected health, an approach to healthcare delivery that leverages the systematic application of healthcare IT to facilitate the accessing and sharing of information and the analysis of data across the healthcare system.
Global findings
The majority of doctors in all of the countries surveyed believe that healthcare IT provides some common top benefits, including better access to quality data for clinical research (70.9 percent reported positive benefits), improved coordination of care (69.1 percent) and a reduction in medical errors (66 percent).
But, some doctors do not yet see all the benefits of healthcare IT, with high percentages reporting either a negative impact, no impact or didn’t know for reducing unneeded procedures (43.6 percent), improving access to services (43 percent) or improving patient outcomes (39.2 percent).
Those physicians who are routine users of healthcare IT, however, rated the overall benefits more positively than their counterparts who are less actively involved with these technologies.
U.S. findings
American physicians rated the benefits of EMR and HIE lower than their international colleagues:

  • The U.S. had the lowest number of doctors (45 percent) who indicated healthcare IT would improve diagnostic decisions – compared with 61 percent globally.
  • Forty-five percent reported that technology leads to improved health outcomes for patients, against a survey average of 59 percent.
  • Forty-Seven percent of U.S. doctors reported that healthcare technology has helped improve quality of treatment decisions – compared with 61 percent globally.

“The survey shows that more needs to be done to bridge the disconnect between physician perceptions and the U.S. federal government’s goal of increasing the adoption of meaningful use standards,” said Rick Ratliff, global lead, Accenture Connected Health Services. “The challenge is to encourage behavioral change across the healthcare system through education and ongoing communication, helping physicians to embrace greater use of healthcare IT to demonstrate the value of connected health.”  
Country comparisons
The survey also revealed that doctors across the eight countries have somewhat similar perceptions about the top benefits of healthcare IT. However, doctors in Singapore and Spain perceive a more positive impact compared with their counterparts in the United States and Australia.  
Age divide
There was a statistically significant contrast in attitudes among doctors over and under 50 years of age. The study found that doctors under 50 are more likely to believe that healthcare IT has a positive impact across a wide range of perceived benefits, including improved health outcomes for patients, increased speed of access to health services and reductions in medical errors. More than 72 percent of doctors under 50 indicated EMR and HIE would improve care coordination across settings and service boundaries. And 73 percent indicated the thought these technologies would offer better access to quality data for clinical research. These numbers vary, however, for doctors over age 50: 65 percent and 68 percent, respectively, perceive the same benefits.
Routine users of healthcare IT
The Accenture study also asked physicians about the extent to which they used 12 different “functions” of EMR and HIE, such as 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. The results showed that physicians who are routine users of a wider range of healthcare IT functions have a more positive attitude toward the benefits these technologies bring. The survey shows that, on average across all the countries, as physicians start to use more functions – the more positive they are about the benefits.

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