Low Rate of Basic Information Technology Use

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"We are investing tens of billions of dollars in health information technology [IT] nationally, yet the medical profession has been very slow to adopt these tools for clinical care," says Richard Grant, MD, MPH, of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Division of General Medicine, the paper's lead author. "We were shocked at the very low rate of basic IT use, particularly among solo-practice and non-academic physicians. I'm sure that the vast majority of them personally use e-mail and the Internet, but most do not have effective ways to integrate these tools into clinical practice."

The survey was sent to physicians randomly selected from the membership in the American Medical Association. Along with questions about many aspects of medical professionalism, respondents were asked to indicate how frequently they used information technologies as e-mail communication, online access to continuing medical education, online access to scientific journals, and computerized or online texts and other information designed to support clinical decisions.

The almost 1,700 survey respondents were most likely to report commonly using computerized decision support tools and online journal access, although only about 40 percent said they used each technology frequently. Online medical education courses were frequently accessed by 24 percent of respondents. Frequent e-mail communication with colleagues was reported by 30 percent of physicians, but less than four percent indicated frequently communicating with patients by e-mail. Frequent use of the surveyed technologies was most likely among recent medical school graduates and physicians affiliated with academic practices and health maintenance organizations and was least likely in one- or two-person practices.

COMPAMED.de; Source: Massachusetts General Hospital