Increased physician use of IT could
help improve the quality and efficiency of medical care
Nov. 4, 2002 - Are doctors savvy when it comes to
More than you might think, according to a survey
released today by the Healthcare
Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), a Chicago-based
association for healthcare information technology professionals.
Physicians, who have been reluctant to use some types of information
technology, appear to be increasingly using IT in the practice
For example, nearly 72% of physician offices have doctors who
practice medicine with a handheld computer of some type, such
as a personal digital assistant. And nearly all physician offices
have at least one desktop or laptop computer.
However, not all information technology has such broad appeal.
For example, only 20% of physician offices are using e-mail to
communicate with patients about medical concerns.
The findings demonstrate that physicians offices
are investing more in information technology today than in the
past, said Carla Smith, executive vice president of membership
and professional services at HIMSS. Yet, software is generally
being used for administrative rather than clinical purposes.
The HIMSS Clinician Wireless Survey was sponsored by AstraZeneca
and supported by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA),
the American Medical Group Association (AMGA), and the Association
of Medical Directors of Information Systems (AMDIS). The survey
explored the use of computers and information technology in medical
group practices and independent physician offices.
Ninety-eight percent of survey respondents reported their facility
had a computer located in one administrative location, while only
68% said they use computers in a least one clinical area. Nearly
70% of physician respondents said they use handhelds as a reference
on pharmaceuticals before prescribing drugs for patients. Another
41% said they use the devices for scheduling, followed by interfacing
with hospital data (12%) and downloading lab values (9%).
Its interesting to see that physicians are increasingly
embracing the use of information technology, said Kim Slocum,
director of strategic planning and business development, Astrazeneca,
and a member of the HIMSS Board of Directors. Over the long
term, further extension of this trend should help physicians improve
the quality and efficiency of medical care delivery in the United
While the majority of respondents reported having an Internet
connection at their practice, nearly 79% indicated they do not
use e-mail to communicate medical information with patients. However,
of physician respondents who do use e-mail, 38% reported using
the service to communicate medical information to patients. Conversely,
47% of physicians who do not use e-mail said the reason is their
patients do not use e-mail. About one-third of physician respondents
also cited legal concerns (such as privacy and security of patient
data), lack of time, and reimbursement issues.
Physicians may believe that their patients do not use e-mail
because most medical forms dont ask for e-mail addresses
in the first place, said Smith. However, increasing
e-mail usage will take more than changing medical forms. A culture
shift needs to happen that realizes the value of patient/physician
Among the studys other key findings:
Use of an electronic medical records system (EMR) varies by medical
practice specialties. While 30% of respondents indicated an EMR
was in place in their practice, some 42% of respondents working
in an internal medical practice said they have an EMR, followed
by multispecialty practice (33%), family practice (30%), and specialty
practice (i.e., dermatology, gastroenterology), 27%.
Ninety-one percent of respondents indicated they would make some
information technology purchase this year. However, 46% stated
they would like to see more affordable software and 36% said they
are looking for affordable hardware, given their budget constraints.
Data for the HIMSS Clinician Wireless Survey was collected via
a Web-based survey. Over 5,000 physicians, practice managers,
and healthcare executives were invited to participate in the survey
from August 8-26, 2002.
A detailed report of this survey is available here