Study: Health IT Use Could Affect Physicians’ Capacity To See Patients

November 20, 2014 in News

The increased use of health IT among providers could reduce the number of patients physicians are able to see, according to a study published in the American Journal of Managed Care, FierceHealthIT reports.

Study Details

The study was based on survey responses from primary care physicians in Michigan (Hall, FierceHealthIT, 11/19). The survey — by the Center for Healthcare Research Transformation and the University of Michigan Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit — was conducted between October 2012 and December 2012 and included a total of 739 respondents.

Responses from physicians who were not practicing at the time were not included.

Study Findings

The study found that physicians used a mean of 5.1 health IT services. The most commonly used health IT service was electronic prescribing, while a Web portal for patients to schedule appointments was the least common.

Overall, 83% of respondents said they anticipated having the capacity to accept new patients in the future.

However, the study showed that the odds of physicians who reported having the capacity to accept new patients decreased by 14% with each additional health IT system used.

Further, the study showed that the number of patients seen was more likely to be negatively affected by health IT at smaller physician practices than larger practices (Tipirneni et al., AJMC, 11/17).

According to the study, EHRs and electronic access to admitting hospital records were most closely associated with an expected lower capacity. Meanwhile, technologies that were less likely to negatively affect capacity included:

  • Electronic prescribing;
  • Reminder systems;
  • State immunization registries; and
  • Web portals for scheduling appointments or requesting medication refills (FierceHealthIT, 11/19).

The study also found that physicians with higher health IT use were less likely to accept privately insured patients than those with Medicaid or Medicare. The researchers said this was surprising because providers generally receive higher reimbursement rates from private coverage.

The researchers concluded that the findings “call into question” whether health IT expansion “translates into improved efficiency and capacity in primary care practices” (AJMC, 11/17). They added, “In an era of concurrent [health] IT and insurance coverage expansions, policymakers must weigh the unintended consequences of each in order to optimize capacity to care for the newly insured” (Rizzo, “Becker’s Health IT CIO Review,” Becker’s Hospital Review, 11/18).

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