Survey: Doctors agree on top benefits of healthcare IT

An eight-country survey of more than 3,700 doctors conducted by Accenture has shown that doctors agree on the top healthcare benefits of IT.

Accenture said the research, which is part of its Connected Health Study, included 500 doctors per country in Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Spain and the United States and 200 doctors in Singapore between August and September 2011.

Majority of doctors in all of the countries surveyed believe that healthcare IT does provide some common top benefits, including better access to quality data for clinical research (70.9 percent), improved coordination of care (69.1 percent) and a reduction in medical errors (66 percent).

Some doctors, however, do not yet see all the benefits of healthcare IT, with high percentages reporting either a negative impact, no impact or didn’t know for reducing unneeded procedures (43.6 percent), improving access to services (43 percent), or improving patient outcomes (39.2 percent).
As expected, the positive benefits were reported more by routine users of healthcare IT than those who are less actively involved with these technologies.

Surprisingly, the US had the lowest number of doctors who perceive a positive impact for technology in healthcare. Only 45 percent, for example, think that healthcare IT will improve diagnostic decisions, compared to 61 percent globally. Only 45 percent reported that technology leads to improved health outcomes for patients, against a survey average of 59 percent. Moreover, only 47 percent of US doctors reported that healthcare technology has helped improve quality of treatment decisions, compared to 61 percent globally.

“The survey shows that more needs to be done to bridge the disconnect between physician perceptions and the US federal government’s goal of increasing the adoption of meaningful use standards,” said Rick Ratliff, global lead, Accenture Connected Health Services.  “The challenge is to encourage behavioral change across the healthcare system through education and ongoing communication, helping physicians to embrace greater use of healthcare IT to demonstrate the value of Connected Health.” 

Singapore leads

While doctors in the eight countries surveyed agree on the top benefits of healthcare IT,  doctors in Singapore and Spain reported more positive impact of technology than their counterparts in the US, Australia, Canada, Germany, France, and England.

In Singapore, for example, 69.1 percent of doctors said IT leads to better access to quality data for clinical research, compared to only 57.5 percent who said so.  A high 60.3 percent also said IT leads to reduction in medical errors, compared to only 55.2 percent in the US.

Singapore doctors also rated positively other perceived impacts of IT such as improved quality of treatment decisions (66.7 percent), improved health outcomes for patients (65.2 percent), improved diagnostic decisions (67.6 percent), reduced numbers of unnecessary interventions (68.6 percent), increased speed of access to health services for patients (65.2 percent) and reduced risk of litigation (55.9 percent).

Age matters

Accenture said there was a statistically significant contrast in attitudes among doctors over and under 50 years of age. 

"Doctors under 50 are more likely to believe that healthcare IT has a positive impact across a wide range of perceived benefits, including improved health outcomes for patients, increased speed of access to health services and reductions in medical errors. More than 72 percent of doctors under 50 think EMR and HIE will improve care coordination across settings and service boundaries. And, 73 percent believe these technologies will offer better access to quality data for clinical research," the study noted.

In contrast, for doctors over 50, only 65 percent and 68 percent, respectively, perceive the same benefits.

“We talk a lot about technology, but most of the challenges relate to changing attitudes, processes, recognition, clinical leadership and governance. That is a harder road to move down, but it is the critical one for success,” a survey respondent in Australia was quoted as saying in the report.