Docs optimistic HIT can improve care, but doubt promised cost savings

Most physicians think health IT will improve quality of care long-term, but just as many are skeptical that it will also reduce the cost of care, according to a new study by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.

Doctors who have practiced 10 years or fewer are more likely to think health IT will improve quality of care--81 percent, compared with 73 percent overall.

Optimism about improvements in quality of care also is higher among physicians in larger practices--80 percent for those in practices of 10 or more physicians, compared with 73 percent for those in smaller practices.

When it comes to cost reduction, 81 percent of solo practitioners think health IT will increase costs, compared with 71 percent among all physicians queried.

Additionally, six out of 10 physicians fear the hospital-physician relationship will suffer, with physician privileges put at risk by hospitals attempting to meet federal meaningful use standards for electronic health records, the survey found.

Two-thirds of the physicians said their practice EHRs meet Stage 1 Meaningful Use requirements. That proportion grows to 89 percent for doctors working in an integrated healthcare system. But only 31 percent of solo practitioners have an EHR system meeting Meaningful Use Stage 1, compared with 62 percent of mid-size practices and 82 percent of larger practices.

Cost was cited as the primary barrier to meeting Stage 1 requirements among physicians in practices not yet meeting that goal, with 72 percent citing the upfront investment and 70 percent citing the additional burden of a complex delivery process. In practices with one to nine doctors, 75 percent to 79 percent listed upfront cost as their greatest concern.

"While the findings suggest that HIT is gaining traction among physicians, they also point to opportunities for significant advances in adoption and deployment," Deloitte said in an article today in Deloitte Insights, a sponsored section of CIO Journal, an online publication of the Wall Street Journal.

Other surveys suggest adoption of health IT technologies may vary by type of practice. A recent survey of dermatologists, for example, found that of the 85 percent using a smartphone--most commonly iPhones--90 percent use them for work.

Meanwhile, a study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association addressed the quality of care issue, finding that emergency department visits among patients with diabetes declined modestly after implementation of a systemwide EHR system by Kaiser Permanente. The authors suggested the improvements were prompted by changes in delivery of care inherent in EHR adoption, adding such improvements were not limited to patients with diabetes.

For more information:
- download the study (.pdf)
- read the Deloitte Insights article