The Commonwealth Fund has released a report comparing the tools available to primary care physicians in seven western countries. The report, published as a web exclusive from Health Affairs magazine, found that primary care doctors in the U.S. are less likely than those in several other countries to be able to offer patients access to care outside regular office hours or to have systems that alert doctors to potentially harmful drug interactions. U.S. primary care physicians are also less likely to receive financial incentives for improving patient care.The survey of more than 6,000 primary care physicians in Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States reveals that primary care physicians in the U.S. do not have the tools or support to provide the best care possible to patients. “In an era of advanced computer systems, it’s disturbing that the vast majority of primary care doctors in the U.S. don’t have the tools to electronically prescribe medications, access patients’ test results, or know when patients are overdue for essential care,” said Commonwealth Fund Senior Vice President Cathy Schoen, lead author of the article. “The data show that U.S. primary care doctors find it difficult or impossible to perform tasks that doctors in other countries find easy; they also practice without basic decision supports that could improve health outcomes and reduce costs.”
In addition, the survey revealed that financial incentives for improving patient care are less available to U.S. primary care physicians than they are to doctors in those other countries. The U.S. also had the highest percentage of physicians who reported their patients have difficulty paying for their health care.
Interestingly. Canadian physicians often lacked the same tools. British physicians, however, were often among the highest. The work of medical practices is complex and information heavy, but we really don’t generally use the tools that can make a difference. On the downside, the cost is significant to install and maintain these systems. On the upside, EMR should give physicians the ability to better manage their patient population, and free up time wasted dealing with paper to see more patients or – yes, or – take some time to themselves. It’s not a panacea, but it’s the only way to possible gain control of all of the data on your patients, and be able to search the “charts” as important new knowledge becomes available.
Interesting reading, and, more importantly, a basis of some of the thinking and planning for you for the next several years.