U.S. Physicians Hesitant About Health IT


health itAmerican doctors have a curious attitude toward health IT: Most agree with physicians around the world that technology provides better access to quality data for clinical research, improves coordination of care and reduces medical errors.

But U.S. physicians are at odds with their international colleagues about technology’s value in improving diagnostic and treatment decisions and treatment outcomes – most American doctors doubted technology could help.

Those are two of the major findings of a recently released survey of more than 3,700 physicians in eight countries from consulting and technology services firm Accenture. The survey also showed that older physicians were less likely to use health IT and that U.S. physicians aren’t as positive about EMR and health information exchange (HIE) than non-U.S. physicians. Not surprisingly, those physicians who actually used health IT regularly as part of their practice were more likely to be enthusiastic about its potential than those who did not.

Why would American physicians be less inclined than others to be pro-technology? It’s not because they avoid digital tools – 30 percent of U.S. physicians use a tablet device, compared to 5 percent usage by American consumers. But like the rest of the population, doctors may find the endless debates about which manufacturer has the best product for the job just as frustrating as those trying to choose between an iPhone and an Android.

See, for example, this commentary in InformationWeek on the high physician use of tablets. After the columnist chides physicians for being too trendy in loving their iPads, readers debated one another in the commentary about the column’s validity. With no immediate incentive to buy a tablet, physicians might well elect to delay a purchase.

And if the technology debate doesn’t give physicians pause, perhaps the political debate does. A long article in Healthcare IT News in the wake of a bipartisan report on health IT usage says the issue is polarized politically, overshadowed by the healthcare reform debate that’s a key part of the 2012 elections. Most non-U.S. physicians practice in countries that aren’t in the midst of deciding on a national healthcare system. Less uncertainty about the future may allow them to feel more confident that health IT will play a valuable role going forward.

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