While most physicians have become adept at using electronic health records in their practices, they are not sold on the ability of EHRs to aid their treatment decisions, reduce medical errors or improve outcomes.

Those are among the findings of a survey from consultancy Accenture of about 600 doctors in the United States. Though Accenture’s 2015 survey found health IT use among physicians has averaged double-digit growth compared to a similar 2012 survey, fewer physicians believe that EHRs have improved treatment decisions (46 percent in 2015 vs. 62 percent in 2012), reduced medical errors (64 vs. 72 percent) and improved outcomes (46 vs. 58 percent).

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The good news is that 79 percent of U.S. physicians are more proficient using EHRs than they were two years ago and the number of U.S. doctors who routinely use digital tools, such as secure e-mail, for communicating with patients has more than doubled since the last survey (30 percent vs. 13 percent in 2012). In addition, the health IT capabilities U.S. doctors use the most are: Entering patient notes electronically (82 percent); prescribing drugs electronically (72 percent); receiving clinical results directly into a patient’s EHR (65 percent); using electronic administration tools (63 percent); and sending e-order requests to laboratories (62 percent).

Nonetheless, despite this increase in physicians’ use of health IT, more than two-thirds (70 percent) of doctors believe that HIT has decreased the amount of time they spend with patients. And, about three-fourths (76 percent) of those surveyed believe that interoperability of the tools currently available limits their ability to improve the quality of patient care. Further, while 90 percent of U.S. physicians indicated that better functionality and easy-to-use systems are important for improving the quality of patient care, more than half (58 percent) said that the EHR systems in their organizations is hard to use.

“Despite the rapid uptake of electronic medical records, the industry is facing the reality that digital records alone are not sufficient to driving better, more-efficient care in the long-term," said Kaveh Safavi, M.D., who leads Accenture’s global health business. “The findings underscore the importance of adopting both technology and new care processes, as some leading health systems have already done, while ensuring that existing shortcomings in patient care are not further magnified by digitalization.”

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