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Accenture: U.S. Among Leaders in Health IT Use, Adoption

February 17, 2012

The United States is a leader in health information technology (IT) use and adoption by physicians, according to a new eight-country study from Accenture. The study, which includes Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Singapore, Spain and the United States, also shows that the United States is one of the few countries in which healthcare IT penetration is nearly equal among primary physicians and specialists.

“What is encouraging about the U.S. findings is that primary doctors and specialists are on pretty equal footing for healthcare IT adoption,” said Mark Knickrehm, who leads Accenture’s global healthcare business. “This balance and equality between the sectors will help speed integration of care delivery across the U.S. healthcare system.”

The Accenture study, “Connected Health: The Drive to Integrated Healthcare Delivery,”analyzed how countries and health systems are applying systematic approaches to health IT. The findings are the result of more than 160 interviews with health leaders – including government officials, clinicians, health information specialists, academics and analysts – and a survey of 3,700 physicians across the eight countries as well as extensive secondary research.

The study includes the Accenture Connected Health Maturity Index, which compares the relative progress of each country’s adoption of healthcare IT (x-axis) as well as the healthcare information exchange, or HIE (y-axis) between clinicians and organizations. The index is based on physicians’ use of different healthcare IT and HIE functionalities (such as electronic entry of patient notes, e-referrals, e-ordering, e-prescribing and electronic communications with other clinicians).

The study noted differences in IT use across a variety of care settings. In primary care, for example, Spain scored the highest overall for connected health “maturity.” In fact, according to the study, 58 percent of Spanish physicians are routine users of healthcare IT functions and 52 percent regularly participate in HIE. While healthcare IT maturity in primary care was higher in England (63 percent) and Australia (62 percent), primary care physicians’ use of HIE was significantly less advanced.

Within secondary or specialist care, health IT and HIE are generally less advanced than among primary care physicians, with some exceptions, notably in Singapore. The study showed, however, that U.S. and German specialists were on equal footing with their primary care colleagues. The study also showed that England had the largest gap between IT maturity in primary care – where it was a leader – and secondary care, where it lagged behind the other countries studied. The prevalence of HIE for secondary-care physicians was the lowest in Canada and Australia.

Among the key U.S. findings:
•Approximately 62 percent of specialists are using electronic tools to improve administrative efficiency (i.e. e-scheduling, e-billing), compared to a 49 percent global average.
•The majority of U.S. physicians (59 percent) enter patient notes electronically during and after appointments, the same as their international colleagues in the study.
•More than half of U.S. primary doctors (54 percent), the most of any country surveyed, are using e-prescribing to send prescriptions to pharmacies electronically, compared to just 20 percent on average for the other countries.
•Nearly half of physician specialists (48 percent) send electronic orders (i.e. lab, radiology or diagnostic tests) compared to roughly one-third (36 percent) as a global average for the study.
•Nearly a third (30 percent) of primary and specialist physicians send and receive e-referrals for recommending care outside their organization. Independent physicians, however, were significantly less likely to make use of HIE capabilities compared to physicians who are employed or aligned with larger health systems.

“This study shows promising results among U.S. physicians,” said Knickrehm. “With a multi-billion dollar investment to further healthcare IT adoption and HIE usage, the U.S. federal government is building momentum toward what we call ‘connected health’ and recent government legislation including the Affordable Care Act and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) is providing a strong impetus for change.”

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