Jonathan Weiner, David Blumenthal, M.D., Susan Yeh
J. P. Weiner, S. Yeh, and D. Blumenthal, "The Impact of Health Information Technology and e-Health on the Future Demand for Physician Services," Health Affairs, Nov. 2013 32(11):1998–2004.
Health information technology and electronic health applications will likely change the shape of the health care workforce, by raising efficiency; allowing more patient care to be provided by physician assistants and nurse practitioners, and by generalist rather than specialist physicians; and by increasing the opportunity for patients to receive care remotely. These trends will considerably decrease demand on physicians’ time.
Most health policy analysts predict there will soon be a shortage of primary care physicians, with demand for health services driven by an aging population and Americans gaining insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act. At the same time, health information technology (HIT) is causing major changes throughout the health care system. As of 2009, as many as 72 percent of office-based physicians had an electronic health record (EHR), up from only about 10 percent a decade ago. Other electronic tools—like secure messaging with patients or clinical decision support—are being adopted more slowly. Authors Jonathan Weiner and Susan Yeh of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and David Blumenthal, president of The Commonwealth Fund, reviewed the research literature to understand how the implementation of HIT, as well as electronic health and mobile health applications, might affect future demand for physicians.
[T]he current knowledge base provides substantial evidence supporting the premise that consumer and provider IT systems will significantly affect the way office-based care is delivered in the future—which in turn will have a strong impact on future demand for physicians,” the authors write. As such, future predictions of the adequacy of physician supply should take these changes into account.
In addition, this research also highlights the need to train the next generation of clinicians to make HIT proficiency one of their essential skills. In the future, physician practices may look to employ computer scientists with clinical degrees and online “consumer navigators,” as well as computer-savvy doctors and nurses.
The authors reviewed health informatics and health services research literature through June 2013..
Health information technology will have a substantial impact on the future demand for physicians. Gains in efficiency, a greater reliance on nurse practitioners and physician assistants and on generalists rather than specialists, and an increase in the provision of remote care will all lessen the burden on primary care physicians.