Technology has permeated every aspect of the modern, industrialized world. The healthcare industry is no exception. While it’s understandable that doctors worry about their patients’ privacy when it comes to putting health information in the cloud, it’s also understandable that patients may believe that the benefits of their physicians’ ability to quickly and easily share health information and research data with each other is worth the risk.
A survey conducted by Accenture between August and September 2011 of approximately 3,700 physicians – 500 each from Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Spain and the US, and 200 from Singapore – revealed that, globally, most physicians agree that healthcare IT does have its merits. Two-thirds of the physicians surveyed agreed that the reduction in medical errors was a definite benefit of healthcare IT. Yet only 39.2% believed that healthcare IT contributed to better patient outcomes. Naturally, those physicians who routinely use healthcare IT rated it more favorably than those who do not. And it’s not surprising that a greater percentage of doctors under the age of 50 viewed healthcare IT favorably than did those who are 50 or older.
US physicians rated the benefits of healthcare IT lower than did their global colleagues. Only 45% of US doctors believed that healthcare IT would improve diagnostic decisions versus 61% globally. The global average was 59% believing that healthcare IT led to improved patient outcomes; only 45% of US doctors agreed. And 47% of US doctors stated that healthcare IT improved the quality of treatment decisions versus 61% globally.
One benefit of healthcare IT from the patients’ point of view is the coordination of records. For example, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) comprises several hospitals. So, a patient could go to one hospital for regular checkups with his primary care physician, but go to another hospital to have an operation. Because all of his records are electronically stored in the UPMC database, the doctors and nurses at the hospital where the patient is scheduled to have his surgery can access the patient’s medical history and know within minutes whether or not the patient has any allergies, has ever had an operation before and any other relevant health information. Think of how much easier life would be if someone who wanted to move from New York to California had electronically stored medical records. After the patient signs a release form, the records could be emailed to or shared with the patient’s new physician in less than an hour.
And what about research? Doctors from around the globe can share data via email or the Internet in far less time than it would take to deliver the same information via courier or FedEx. This allows everyone to stay up to date with new findings and treatment options.
Information technology is playing a vital role in the world’s rapid evolution … even in healthcare. While US physicians aren’t as impressed with healthcare IT as physicians in Spain and Singapore are, some of them are positive about it. But let’s face it, at some point, doctors’ opinions about healthcare IT could become moot.
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