Health care IT: Public support high for adding more IT to health care

August 22, 2008

Strong public support for the use of information technology in the nation's health industry stands in "stark contrast" to the industry's adoption of it, according to a national survey of 1,000 U.S. adults by the Commonwealth Fund, a health care advocacy nonprofit.

Strong public support for the use of information technology in the nation’s health industry stands in “stark contrast” to the industry’s adoption of it, according to a national survey of 1,000 U.S. adults by the Commonwealth Fund, a health care advocacy nonprofit.

Eighty-six percent of respondents said it is important for doctors to use computerized medical records to improve patient care. Eighty-nine percent said it’s important for doctors to be able to electronically access test results, such as lab tests or x-rays. The same number believes it’s important for doctors to be able to share information electronically with other doctors.

However, the U.S. severely lags other countries when it comes to the use of health information systems.

Citing an article in Health Affairs, the report says only 28 percent of U.S. primary care doctors reported using electronic medical records in their practice. That figure falls far short of doctors in the Netherlands (98 percent), New Zealand (92 percent), and the United Kingdom (89 percent).

A lower number of U.S. primary care practices, 19 percent, reported using systems with multiple functions – such as electronic ordering of prescriptions or computerized alerts about potential drug problems. That compares with as much as 87 percent in “leading countries,” according to the report.

While many respondents said they’d like to be able to access their medical records via the Internet and communicate with their doctors via e-mail, few have that capability. Only 9 percent are able to access their medical records on the Internet and just 21 percent are able to communicate with their doctors via e-mail.

Overall, the report paints a gloomy picture of consumers’ view of the nation’s health care system. More than eight of 10 respondents said it should be fundamentally changed or completely rebuilt.

"It is clear that our health care system isn't giving Americans the health care they need and deserve," Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis says in a statement. "The disorganization and inefficiency are affecting Americans in their everyday lives, and it's obvious that people are looking for reform.”