Healthcare News & Insights

Report: US doctors lag behind in health IT

Though use of EHRs and other technology has increased, US doctors are still behind those in many other countries when it comes to health IT adoption. 

Progress has been made in health IT adoption among primary care physicians in the US, according to a recent study published in Health Affairs. However, the health system still faces significant challenges in the technology realm and overall.

For the report, researchers surveyed primary care physicians in 10 countries.

The survey found increasing adoption of health IT in America, with 69% of US primary care physicians using EHRs. That’s up from 46% in 2009. But despite the increase, the US still ranked seventh among the countries surveyed. In comparison, 97% or more of doctors in the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand and the UK are using EHRs.

In addition, just 27% of US doctors say their EHR systems have multi-functional capability. A multi-functional EHR system, according to the report, includes the abilities to generate patient information such as medication lists, manage patient registries and see who is overdue for care, order prescriptions or tests electronically, provide decision support tools such as drug interaction warnings, and other capabilities.

US doctors were fifth most likely to use multi-functional EHRs, behind the UK (68%), Australia (60%), New Zealand (59%) and the Netherlands (33%).

Doctors are also becoming more likely to give patients access to tech tools. In the US, 36% of doctors allow patients to request prescription refills online, 34% allow patients to email medical questions, and 30% let patients schedule appointments or request referrals online.

In comparison, Dutch (63%), British (56%) and Norwegian (53%) doctors are more likely to offer electronic prescription refill requests. More doctors in Sweden, Norway and the UK allow online appointment scheduling and emails about medical questions.

As we’ve reported earlier, health care providers in the US are seeing significant obstacles in implementing health information exchanges (HIEs), and other countries are no different, according to the report. At 55%, New Zealand has the highest percentage of HIE participation. The US was toward the bottom in this area, too, coming in at seventh with 31%.

Overall, American doctors are unhappy with the current state of the health care system — and their opinions are becoming lower. Just 15% of US doctors say the system works well and only needs minor changes. That was the lowest of any country surveyed, and down from 17% who said the same thing in 2009.

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