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Study: U.S. Primary Care Docs Lag Behind in Health IT

November 5, 2009
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Findings from a Commonwealth Fund (New York) survey of primary care physicians in 11 countries reveals that the United States lags far behind in key measures of access, quality, and use of health IT.

According to the study, while other countries are making efforts to bolster primary care systems by investing in IT while simultaneously reforming delivery systems and payment policies, the U.S. is behind the curve, which is undermining doctors’ efforts to provide timely, high-quality care, it says.

Results of the survey, published online by Health Affairs, indicate that:

  • More than half (58%) of U.S. physicians said their patients often have difficulty paying for medications and care, and said they and their staff spend substantial time dealing with the restrictions insurance companies place on care.
  • Only 29 percent of U.S. doctors said their practices have provisions for after-hours care, allowing patients to see a doctor or nurse without going to emergency departments.
  • U.S. doctors are far less likely to use health IT that helps reduce errors and improve care. Only 46 percent use electronic medical records, compared with over 90 percent of doctors in Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
  • While all the countries surveyed use financial incentives to improve the quality of care, primary care physicians in the U.S. are among the least likely to be offered such rewards. Only one-third reported receiving financial incentives.

For more information on the survey, click here.

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