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International Survey: U.S. Slow to Adopt Health IT

An analysis of health information technology deployment in seven industrialized countries finds that physicians' adoption of health IT is highly variable, with the United States lagging well behind the other countries. The study, conducted by Karen Davis and Commonwealth Fund researchers and published in the journal Health Policy, also found that physicians with greater IT capacity were more likely to report feeling well prepared to manage patients with chronic illnesses.

Use of electronic medical records ranges from nearly all primary care physicians in the Netherlands to only 23 percent in Canada and 28 percent in the U.S. Physicians in the U.S. and Canada also reported predictably low use of other computerized systems. For instance, just 15 percent of physicians in the U.S. and 6 percent in Canada used computerized systems to receive alerts to provide patients with their test results.

According to the authors, health systems that promote development of information system infrastructure are better able to address coordination and safety issues, particularly for patients with multiple chronic conditions, as well as to maintain satisfaction among the primary care physician workforce.

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Federal leadership is likely necessary to accelerate IT adoption among physician practices, say the researchers. In England, for example, the government has established IT standards and financed and implemented IT tools; as a result, nearly all physicians there have electronic medical record systems and a great majority report high IT capacity.

Data for the analysis was obtained from the 2006 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey of Primary Care Physicians, which involved 6,536 physicians in seven countries: Australia, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S.

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