Computers in Healthcare

U.S. Makes Progress in Adoption of Health IT by Primary Care Physicians

Every three years, the Commonwealth Fund conducts a 10-country health policy survey of primary care physicians in order to identify the impacts of national policies, support for primary care practices, and Health Information Technology. The 2102 survey reveals that 69% of U.S. primary care physicians reported using EHRs in 2012 compared to 46% in 2009. The UK and New Zealand are still clear leaders in the adoption and use of Health IT in primary care: almost 100% of primary care physicians have adopted EHRs. However, not all is good news. For example, only 11% of U.S. primary care physicians report receiving information from specialists that is timely and available when needed.

Additional observations include the following:

  • Adoption numbers alone do not tell the complete story. The fact that a physician has an EHR does not mean that they are using that system effectively. For example, 98% of primary care physicians in the Netherlands use EHRs; however, just 1% indicate that they receive information from specialists that is timely and available when needed.
  • 27% of U.S. primary care physicians report use of EHRs with multifunctional health IT capacity. This is defined as having an EHR and at least two of the following electronic functions: order entry management, generating patient information, generating panel information, and routine clinical decision support indicating multifunctional health IT capacity in this group. This equates to 1 out of every 2.5 primary care physicians who have an EHR. In Germany (which has 82% adoption of EHRs), only 1 out of 11 primary care physicians report having this level of advanced capability.
  • 31% of U.S. physicians report being able to electronically exchange patient summaries and test results with doctors outside their practice in comparison to New Zealand with 55% reporting this capability.
  • In terms of electronic access to information for patients, 30% of U.S. physicians report that their practice allows patients to request appointments or referrals online; 36% allow requests for refills for prescriptions online; and 34% allow patients to email about a medical question. The laggard in the group is Canada with only 7%, 6%, and 11% (respectively) reporting this capability.

To read and download a full copy of the report and accompanying slide packs, click here.

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