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Reaching Across the Hospital-Physician Office Divide on IT

March 12, 2012
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A new Deloitte white paper brings forward survey findings that confirm areas of mutually beneficial collaboration

When it comes to healthcare IT leaders reaching out to office-based physicians, a Deloitte study released in February adds to the mounting evidence for the perceived benefits of hospital-physician collaboration on healthcare IT.

The white paper that the folks at Deloitte released in late February, which carried the title "Issue Brief: Physician perspectives about health information technology,” brought forward some very interesting findings.

Based on a summer 2011 online survey of 501 physicians, with results weighted by practice, gender, region, and specialty to reflect the distribution of physicians in the American Medical Association’s master file of physicians, the white paper focused in on the results of responses by 307 physicians whose practices collectively were deemed to be representative of the physician community nationwide.

Not surprisingly, while survey respondents cited privacy concerns (22 percent), vendor selection challenges (15 percent), and a lack of incentives (13 percent) as barriers to EHR adoption, by far the biggest concern was the upfront financial investment in EHRs, cited by 66 percent of respondents (with operational disruptions the next biggest issue, at 54 percent).

That having been said, it was encouraging to learn that 84 percent of respondents agreed that EHR use by physicians is valuable in improving quality (84 percent said so) and in managing patient care (79 percent agreed), even as six out of 10 said that EHR use hasn’t improved their diagnostic accuracy or treatment planning.To continue the “on the one hand, on the other hand” recitation of findings, while two out of three respondents said they believed that the hospital-physician relationship will suffer as physician privileges are put at risk over issues around compliance with hospital standards for meaningful use, more than three-quarters saw HIT as a reason to collaborate with hospitals.

Most interestingly, though, the survey pointed up numerous opportunities for hospitals with regard to helping physicians move forward to do important things they mostly haven’t done yet. For example, only 29 percent of survey respondents had directed patients to trusted healthcare content via the Web; only 24 percent were already using secure messaging for communications with patients; only 20 percent were making use of a website that allowed patients to schedule visits or download test results; and only 6 percent were using social networking to communicate with patients.

Clearly, CIOs, CMIOs, and other healthcare IT leaders will need to think through some of the more challenging results in this survey. But, after sifting through the “on the one hand, on the other hand” elements of the Deloitte white paper, it seems clear to me that the document adds one more piece of confirmation for healthcare IT leaders who are looking to move ahead to partner with office-based physicians on healthcare IT.

Most importantly, some of the areas discussed in the white paper suggest wonderful opportunities for hospital-physician collaboration that truly is mutually beneficial, particularly around care management, patient education, and doctor-patient communications.

What I find particularly encouraging about documents such as this Deloitte study is that each one adds to the mounting evidence that there are vast areas of potentially positive collaboration between hospitals and independent physicians in the IT sphere; and at a time when all parties are under increased pressure to deliver the quality, patient safety, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness goods on behalf of purchasers and payers, shouldn’t we all be reaching across our various divides to move forward in areas with such clear mutual benefit in terms of collaboration?