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Study: Physician Access to Clinical IT Increased Over Last 5 Years

JUNE 7, 2006 -- Physician access to clinical information technology (IT) increased by more than five percentage points over the last five years, according to a study published Wednesday by the Center for Studying Health System Change.

In surveys from 2000–01 and 2004–05, the center asked physicians about their practices' use of IT in the following five areas: obtaining information on treatment or recommended guidelines, exchanging data with other physicians, accessing notes, generating treatment reminders, or writing prescriptions.

According to the study, access to each of the five areas increased by at least five percentage points in the time between the two surveys. For example, 21.9 percent of physicians in 2004–05 had access to electronic prescribing, compared with 11.4 percent in 2000–01. Physicians in 2004–05 also were more likely to report that their practices used IT for four or five clinical activities.

The study reports, however, that 16.8 percent of physicians in 2004–05 had no access to any of the clinical activities and 20.2 percent had access for one activity.

"Despite substantial growth rates across the five clinical activities—between 23 percent and 97 percent—many physicians still lack access to practice-based clinical information technology," said Marie Reed, a data manager for the center and co-author of the study. "For example, nearly 80 percent of physicians surveyed couldn't use IT to write prescriptions, and a third didn't have IT for the easiest-to-implement activity—accessing guidelines and treatment alternatives," she said in a statement.

The study reports that major barriers still exist for clinical IT adoption, including start-up and maintenance costs. The study also notes that physicians were asked about access to clinical IT but not whether they use the technology or how frequently they use it.

The surveys were part of the center's Community Tracking Study Physician Survey, which had 12,000 participants in 2000–01 and 6,600 in 2004–05.

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