Research finds racial disparities in physician use of health IT

A recent study found significant differences in how white and non-white physicians use health IT, suggesting varying degrees of acceptance of health IT among different physician populations, the researchers said.

According to the study published online in Perspectives in Health Information Management:

  • White physicians were more likely than black, Hispanic and Asian physicians to use health IT to communicate electronically with patients.
  • White physicians were more likely to use IT to exchange clinical data and images with other physicians, hospitals and laboratories.
  • Minority physicians were more likely than white physicians to use IT and computers for preventive services and to electronically generate preventive service reminders.
  • Minority physicians were more likely to use IT to find information about drug formularies.

The researchers were unable to establish a cause for the disparities, but said other variables such as gender, age, specialties versus primary care and size of the organization minimized those disparities.

They speculated, though, that white doctors might be less likely to electronically research drug formularies because they might be less concerned about helping patients reduce prescription costs than their minority counterparts.

On the other hand, the researchers said they had no theories for why white physicians "substantially underutilized" a computerized preventive reminder system (CPRS), or why minority physicians were less likely to use email than their white counterparts.

"Ethnic/racial disparities in the use of IT at the provider level may be another barrier to increasing the number of physicians who utilize IT, and subsequently understanding racial/ethnic disparities in IT adoption among physicians remains important in helping to successfully introduce IT into the medical community," the researchers concluded.

Race and ethnicity also appears to play a role in how much patients utilize electronic personal health records, a 2011 study found. Additional factors include income, age and overall health, according to the findings.

To learn more:
- read the study abstract
- here's a detailed analysis

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