Docs: Electronic Data Sharing Improves Healthcare

Yael Waknine

October 05, 2012

October 5, 2012 — An overwhelming majority of clinicians believe that increased exchange of electronic health information will have a positive impact on healthcare, according to the results of a survey published online by the American College of Physicians (ACP), the Bipartisan Policy Center, and Doctors Helping Doctors Transform Health Care.

Survey respondents think greater use of health information technology will improve the quality of patient care, and have a positive effect on coordinating care, meeting the demands of new care models, and participating in third-party reporting and incentive programs.

"The exchange of patient health information across care settings is a critical component to the success of the new models to improve care, such as the patient-centered medical home," said Michael S. Barr, MD, MBA, who leads ACP's Medical Practice, Professionalism & Quality division, in an ACP news release. "ACP agrees with the 78% of survey respondents who believe that exchanging health information will have a positive effect on clinicians' ability to meet the demands of these new care models."

The survey was developed and conducted by the Bipartisan Policy Center and Doctors Helping Doctors Transform Health Care, which is described as "a collaborative effort led primarily by doctors, for doctors, to support the transformation of health care through health [information technology]."

The organizations distributed the survey through a variety of medical association newsletters and online lists related to EHR and information technology. Together the lists covered approximately 45,000 possible recipients.

The organizers received 725 completed surveys. They excluded 198 for 1 of 3 reasons: the survey was incomplete, the respondent was an EHR vendor or advertiser rather than a clinician, or the respondent was not a US resident.

The remaining 527 respondents were predominantly primary care providers who work in practice settings that include 10 physicians or fewer. Seventy-five percent of respondents are electronic health record (EHR) users, compared with 55% in the medical community as a whole.

Push Essential Data

Results showed that clinicians place high priority on access to medication lists and relevant laboratory and imaging test results during transitions of care. Additionally, more than 50% of respondents prefer that essential information be "pushed" to them while retaining access to additional data through a query. When provided with external information, clinicians preferred the option of selecting individual data for integration into the EHR.

Also, they placed a significant emphasis on timeliness of information delivery, with the majority of clinicians considering "within 24 hours" a reasonable timeframe for information exchange when patients require follow-up care or are being treated for an urgent problem.

"By categorizing clinicians' views on the types of information they want to receive, how they want to receive it, how quickly they want to receive it, and what they want to do with it, we can support efforts to facilitate the exchange of health information," Dr. Barr said in the release.

Despite overwhelming clinician support, systems for widespread electronic exchange of health information still need work.

Major barriers identified by more than 70% of the respondents included lack of interoperability and information exchange infrastructure, as well as the cost involved in setting up and maintaining interfaces.

"The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has done a lot to encourage the development of the technology needed to support the exchange of information across care settings, but we still have a long way to go," said Dr. Barr. "These gaps are most apparent when we look at the infrastructure, or lack thereof, needed to support the exchange of information and the governance surrounding such exchange."

The survey was fielded by AmericanEHR partners, which was founded by ACP and Cientis Technologies; the American Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems; the American College of Surgeons; and the American Academy of Pediatrics.