HIT impedes physicians' ability to see more patients as insurance coverage grows

Physicians are equating the use of health IT with reduced capacity to see more patients just as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is providing coverage for more Americans, a new survey finds.

As the number of health information technologies grew, physicians anticipated being significantly less likely to be able to accept new patients, according to the survey of Michigan primary care physicians, which was published in the American Journal of Managed Care.

In fact, the number of patients physicians could see decreased by 14 percent with each additional HIT system in use, according to the survey.

Electronic health records and electronic access to admitting hospital records in particular were associated with anticipated lower capacity. Other technologies--electronic prescribing, state immunization registry, reminder systems, and Web portals to either request refills or schedule appointments--were not seen as significantly affecting capacity.

Providers with higher HIT use also said they were less likely to accept patients with private insurance, but not with Medicaid or Medicare. That finding that surprised the researchers because private insurance generally has higher reimbursement rates, although Medicare and Medicaid might provide a steadier stream of patients, they reasoned.  

The survey also found the inverse association of HIT use and capacity may be more prevalent in small versus large practices.

In research published recently at JAMA Internal Medicine, family practice physicians reported that EHRs cost them 48 minutes of free time per clinic day. Close to 90 percent of respondents said that at least one data management function was slower after adoption of EHRs.

Separate surveys report high levels of dissatisfaction associated with EHRs among doctors and nurses. Among the many interoperability issues, a Frost and Sullivan report found that chief information officers are concerned about EHR systems' poor retrieval capabilities. Among the issues with the systems were "rudimentary search functionality" and "poor usability," according to the health IT leaders.

To learn more:
- check out the study

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