The introduction of electronic medical records in hospitals and clinics—dubbed the “silver bullet” of health care reform—appears to have varying effects on different types of primary care physicians, a UC Davis study has found.
Hemant Bhargava, associate dean and professor of management and computer science at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, and his research colleagues recently completed a study of a multimillion-dollar information technology project installed at six primary care offices from 2003 to 2006. The offices were part of a large primary care physician network affiliated with an academic medical center.
For the study, researchers analyzed the impact the technology had on physician productivity, collecting data on work hours and output before and after the introduction of EMR technology. The data was collected for about 100 physicians spread across three primary care categories—internal medicine, pediatrics and family practice—and six clinics.
The researchers found that the initial implementation of the EMR system resulted in a 25 percent to 33 percent drop in physician productivity. While significant, the drop was anticipated, Bhargava said.
Over the next few months, the researchers found that the impact of the new technology on productivity varied by physician group. Internal medicine units adjusted to the new technology and experienced a slight increase in productivity. In contrast, pediatricians and family practice doctors did not return to their original productivity levels and experienced a slightly lower productivity rate.
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