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Health IT Could Resolve Physician Shortage, Study Finds

November 7, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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According to researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and The Commonwealth Fund, the use of health IT and eHealth applications will likely decrease the need for in-person physician visits and address the physician shortage.

The researchers analyzed the recent trends in digital healthcare to conclude that that patients’ future use of physician services will change dramatically as electronic health records (EHRs) and consumer eHealth applications proliferate. They estimate that when these systems are fully implemented in just 30 percent of community-based physicians’ offices,  U.S. doctors will be able to meet the demands of about 4-9 percent more patients than they can today due to increased efficiency. 

In addition, the researchers say telemedicine and secure patient/doctor digital communication, could help address regional doctor shortages by enabling 12 percent of care to be delivered remotely by doctors living in other locations. If health IT is adopted more widely, the numbers could be even greater.

“The results of our study are important because they provide a forward looking snapshot of how health IT will profoundly impact the American health care workforce over the next decade or two,” stated Jonathan Weiner, Ph.D, the study's lead author and professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School and director of the Center for Population Health Information Technology (CPHIT). The CPHIT launched in 2012, and Dr. Weiner spoke with HCI exclusively about it.

“When all of these likely effects are added together, it is clear that health IT will help resolve future physician shortages that many believe are around the corner,” predicted Professor Weiner.

The findings of this study appear in the November issue of the journal Health Affairs.  It was co-written by David Blumenthal M.D., president of The Commonwealth Fund and the former National Coordinator for Health IT for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Susan Yeh,  a Ph.D. candidate in Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health


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