How Medical Practices
Are Using Information Technology
The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society
(HIMSS) recently invited more than 5,000 medical practices to participate in a Web-based survey designed to quantify the use of information technology by healthcare providers. More than 500 practices responded. Following are some of the key survey findings:
- Ninety-eight percent of survey respondents reported that their facility had a computer located in at least one administrative location, but only 68% said they used computers in at least one clinical area.
- Nearly 72% of practices have physicians who use a handheld computer of some type, including personal digital assistants. Physician respondents say they use the handhelds for such purposes as referencing pharmaceuticals before prescribing drugs for patients, scheduling, interfacing with hospital data, and downloading lab values.
- Only 21% of medical practices say they use e-mail to communicate medical information to patients. Physicians who don't
e-mail to patients cited legal issues such as patient privacy concerns, lack of time, and the fact that many patients don't have e-mail addresses.
- About 30% of respondents said their practice used an electronic medical records system
(EMR), with the greatest EMR usage among internal medicine, multispecialty and family practices.
- Ninety-one percent of respondents indicated they would make some information technology purchase in the next year (with many of these expenditures clearly tied to new HIPAA patient privacy requirements). However, 46% said they had budget constraints and would like to see software become more affordable.
"The findings demonstrate that physicians' offices are investing more in information technology today than in the past," said Carla Smith, executive vice president of membership and professional services at
HIMSS. "Yet, software is generally being used for administrative rather than clinical purposes."
Physicians Finding Less
A survey of U.S. primary care and specialist physicians has found slightly declining levels of career satisfaction in the 5-year period between the beginning of 1997 and the end of 2001.
The telephone survey, conducted by the Center for Studying Health System Change and reported in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, encompassed almost 400 physicians in all areas of the country.
Among primary care physicians, 42.4% reported being "very satisfied" with their careers in 1997, but only 38.5% said they were "very satisfied" in 2001. Among specialists, 43.3% said they were "very satisfied" in 1997. That number had dropped to 41.4% by 2001. According to the survey, most of the physicians who dropped out of the "very satisfied" category later reported that they were "somewhat satisfied" with their careers.
The survey also found that declining career satisfaction stems primarily from threats to physicians' autonomy, an inability to properly manage their day-to-day patient interactions, and a decreased ability to provide high-quality care. Declining income
wasn't a major factor for those who reported dissatisfaction with their medical careers.
Ophthamology Management, Issue: March 2003