While many primary care providers dislike the challenges associated with moving to electronic health records, they generally accept the “promise of health IT” to improve the quality of care for their patients.
That’s among key findings of a new survey from The Commonwealth Fund and The Kaiser Family Foundation.
In the survey of 1,624 primary care physicians and 525 midlevel clinicians (nurse practitioners and physician assistants) working in primary care practices, health IT generally garnered mostly positive opinions with half (50 percent) of physicians and nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of nurse practitioners and physician assistants saying it has made a positive impact.
“With regard to HIT, our study indicates that primary care providers generally accept the promise of HIT to improve quality of care even if previous research shows they dislike the process of transitioning from paper-based records,” states the report, which notes that the survey results “also may reflect clinicians’ earlier exposure to certain models and tools” and credits the HITECH Act with the widespread adoption of EHRs among PCPs.
At the same time, 28 percent of physicians and 20 percent of nurse practitioners/physician assistants said the increased use of HIT had a negative impact on the delivery of quality care; 10 percent of PCPs and 8 percent of other clinicians said it had no impact; and 11 percent of PCPs and 7 percent of other clinicians said they were not sure of the impact.
These survey results are not surprising. Earlier this year, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reported that despite the potential to improve care through data analysis enabled by EHRs, registries, and health information exchange, HIT is underused for supporting quality improvement in primary care.
To increase the use of HIT for quality improvement, the AHRQ recommended that primary care practices, practice facilitators, and vendors work together to: develop and refine technology to produce high-functioning, interoperable tools; empower PCPs with the necessary knowledge and skills to maximize the use of HIT for quality improvement; and provide guidance and tools to help PCPs redesign processes and workflows to accommodate the effective use of HIT for quality improvement.
“Although significant obstacles prevent many primary care practices from using health IT for [quality improvement], practices in diverse settings have demonstrated it is possible and pays off in improved processes of care and patient outcomes,” the agency concluded.
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