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Study Finds Barriers Exist to Patient-Centered Care

APRIL 10, 2006 -- Less than one-quarter of primary care physicians are achieving the highest levels of patient-centered care in their daily practices, according to new research published Monday.

The findings, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that nearly two-thirds of primary care physicians allowed same-day appointments for patients who requested them, and 65 percent said they receive information on a timely basis about the results of patient referrals.

However, the study, compiled by Commonwealth Fund researchers, also found a gap between attitudes and behavior in the area of patient-centered care. Eighty-seven percent of primary care physicians support improved teamwork between physicians and other medical professionals to improve patient care, while 83 percent of primary care physicians surveyed agreed that patients should have access to their own medical records. But the report concludes that just 16 percent of primary care physicians use e-mail to communicate with their patients and 12 percent said they planned to use e-mail with their patients in the next year.

About three-quarters of primary care physicians surveyed have experienced some problems with the availability of patients' medical records, test results, or other relevant information at the time of a scheduled visit, and slightly less than half, or 48 percent, sent patients reminder notices about regular preventive or follow-up care.

Primary care physicians surveyed said they faced significant barriers to adopting more practices to improve patient-centered care. According to the survey, 63 percent of physicians reported that training and knowledge stopped them from implementing patient-centered practices while 84 percent cited cost as a barrier.

Areas for improvement include using more information technology, team-based care, and collecting feedback from patients.

"We know that patient-centered care improves the quality of health care and the survey findings clearly tell us that physicians are moving in the right direction, but they need adequate support," one of the study's authors, Anne-Marie Audet, said in a release. "The challenge will be to get them the technical assistance and financial incentives that will allow them to integrate these patient-centered care practices."

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