U.S. primary care physicians lacking timely information to coordinate care

December 16, 2019

New research article finds U.S. primary care doctors don’t receive the timely information needed to coordinate patients’ care compared to other high-income countries.

U.S. primary care physicians are receiving less timely information when coordinating their patients’ care outside of their office, according to a research article that will appear in the January 2020 issue of Health Affairs.

The study looked at primary care doctors’ roles in coordinating medical and health-related social needs in 11 countries and found that when it comes to receiving information from specialists, only about one third of U.S. primary care physicians received a timely report within one week of the consultation.

Nearly the same proportion (36 percent) of U.S. primary care physicians receive notifications when their patients have been seen for after-hours care, while between 77 percent and 97 percent of doctors in the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom receive that information, according to the article.

About half of U.S. and Canadian primary care doctors said they have been notified when a patient was treated in an emergency department or hospital, compared with 79 percent or more of doctors from New Zealand and the Netherlands. Of the U.S. respondents, 52 percent of U.S. respondents said they received a report within 48 hours of discharge, which is greater than seven other countries, the article says.

When it comes to home-based nursing care, only 33 percent of U.S. doctors reported usual communication about the patient’s needs and services to be provided, and only 42 percent reported that home-based nursing care providers advised them of relevant changes in the patients’ condition or health status. This lack of communication is not unusual, though, as in no other country did more than half of the respondents report either form of communication.

U.S. physicians were more likely to report having information technology tools that allow them to better communicate with their patients, as 77 percent said they offer their patients the option to communicate about medical issues through email or a secure website, but just over half reported being able to exchange patient information with physicians outside of their practice. The article says this is a reflection of challenges with the interoperability between health information technology.

Various barriers are inhibiting electronic data exchanges in the U.S., but that new reforms like the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016, “should help accelerate innovation and the adoption of health IT that will support the exchange of health information between patients, providers, and payers,” according to the study.