EMRs still hard to use but becoming more routine: survey

Most Australian doctors believe they are more proficient in using electronic medical or health records than they were two years ago even though half consider their system hard to use, a new survey from Accenture shows.

The Australian findings, part of a six-country survey, found that healthcare IT use among doctors has averaged double-digit growth since Accenture conducted a similar survey in 2012.

However, despite Australian doctors’ increased use of technology, 45 per cent believe that healthcare IT has decreased the amount of time they spend with patients.

Doctors were split almost 50:50 across the six countries on the question of whether their EMR/EHR was hard to use. 47 per cent of Australian doctors agreed with this statement, mirroring the other countries except for the US, where 58 per cent said their EHR was hard to use.

Just over half of Australian doctors said the use of healthcare IT had increased the amount of time spent with patients, contrary to most of the other countries. In the US, 71 per cent said it had decreased the amount of time they spent with patients.

However, across the board, doctors said that EMRs had improved the quality of treatment decisions, with 76 per cent of Australian doctors agreeing, up from 70 per cent in 2012.

The 2015 global study was conducted by Nielsen Consumer Insights on behalf of Accenture in Australia, Brazil, England, Norway, Singapore and the US, with 510 Australian doctors interviewed.

Of those interviewed, 71 per cent were male and 29 per cent female, with two-thirds aged between 40 and 59. There was an even 50:50 split between GPs and non-GPs.

Two-thirds worked in private practice, while 18 per cent were exclusively or mostly hospital based.

Asked if they were more proficient using electronic health records in clinical practice today than two years ago, 85 per cent of Australian doctors said they were.

Australia ranked highest on the measure of the ability to receive clinical results electronically with 72 per cent with this capability, but very much lagged the other countries when it came to electronically sending order requests to laboratories. For instance, 61 per cent of English, 68 per cent of Norwegian and 62 per cent of US doctors have this capability.

Another area where there were major differences was the ability to send prescriptions electronically to pharmacies, with just 10 per cent of Australian doctors having this ability. This compares to 54 per cent in Norway and 75 per cent in the US.

Australia also ranked below the other countries on making services available to patients such as booking or changing appointments electronically or requesting a prescription refill.

Only 13 per cent of Australian doctors allowed patients to access their medical information and 10 per cent enabled them to download an electronic summary of their medical records. However, Australia saw a rise in the percentage of these services available.

In fact, routine use of electronic functions increased across the board in Australia between 2012 and 2015. Nearly all Australian doctors said that better functionality (93 per cent) and easy-to-use data-entry systems (96 per cent) are important for improving the quality of patient care through healthcare IT.

The number of Australian doctors offering tele-monitoring devices that enable patients to monitor their health nearly tripled since the last survey, from just four per cent in 2012 to 11 per cent now. Those that provide patients with electronic reminders for follow-up care grew 65 per cent, to 43 per cent, in 2015.

Overall, an average of 28 per cent of doctors in the six countries used computerised clinical decision support systems. The ability to be notified of a patient's interactions with other healthcare organisations or to communicate electronically with clinicians in other organisations was also low, with only one in four having these capabilities on average.

Accenture's head of health analytics for the Asia Pacific region, Penny O'Hara, said that despite the rapid uptake of electronic medical records, the industry is facing the reality that digital records alone are not sufficient to driving better, more efficient care in the long term.

“The findings underscore the importance of adopting both technology and new care processes, as some leading health systems have already done, while ensuring that existing shortcomings in patient care are not further magnified by digitalisation,” Ms O'Hara said.

“The Australia healthcare market has made remarkable progress in healthcare IT adoption, and we believe that as the technology evolves, so too will the benefits to physicians and patient care.”

Posted in Asia Pacific Health IT

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