Why HIT doesn't ensure better care coordination

Doctors who use electronic health record systems are only slightly more likely than those who don't to receive the patient information they need for coordinated care, according to research published in Medical Care.

For the study, researchers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality surveyed 4,500 office-based physicians and found that only about 33 percent used an EHR system and shared patient health information electronically. Thirty-nine of respondents had an EHR system but did not share patient data electronically, and about 25 percent did neither.

"The study findings highlight the continuing challenges to using HIT to coordinate care among providers," lead author Chun-Ju Hsiao, of the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, said in an announcement.

Among physicians who used health IT, 48 percent routinely received information on patients referred from other practices, compared with 40 percent of those who did not use health IT. Using health IT did not significantly affect the likelihood of receiving hospital discharge information, according to the researchers. In addition, three-fourths of doctors receiving information from other practices were getting it by fax or other non-electronic means. 

The authors concluded that electronic data-sharing capabilities alone might not be enough to better coordinate care.

To that end, while insurers are developing incentives for doctors to coordinate care, "the necessary infrastructure to facilitate collaboration and alignment is woefully inadequate," according to an article in BenefitsPro.

And aspects like poor interoperability also remain a barrier to coordinated care, such as for accountable care organizations, whose have IT capabilities remain rudimentary, according to the eHealth Initiative.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently proposed changes to Medicare Shared Savings Program encouraging formation of ACOs and the focus on keeping patients healthy.

To learn more:
- check out the abstract
- read the announcement