Accenture study questions efficacy of healthcare IT

Accenture found that fewer doctors believe EMR systems have helped improve treatment decisions and reduce medical errors.

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Bolstered by an initiative from the federal government and the proliferation of technology options, healthcare IT usage is at an all-time high.

But according to a new study by Accenture, the technology boom may be doing little to improve patient care. Polling more than 2,600 physicians globally, Accenture found that fewer doctors believe EMR systems have helped improve treatment decisions and reduce medical errors.

"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, who leads Accenture's global health business, in a statement.

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Safavi said the findings highlight the need to adopt new care processes in stride with new technology -- while also working to ensure that any existing shortcomings in patient care are not worsened by digitalization.

Of the technologies used most by doctors in the US, electronic note taking ranked the highest in adoption, followed by the ability to prescribe drugs electronically, receive clinical results directly into a patient's EMR, use electronic administration tools, and digitally send order requests to laboratories.

But rather than supporting efforts in patient care, more than two-thirds of physicians surveyed said the use of healthcare IT ends up decreasing the amount of time they spend interacting with patients. Physicians also say they're hindered by a lack of interoperability between IT tools, and EMR systems that are often complicated to use.

Interestingly, the survey suggests doctors may start urging patients to take on some of the technology burden themselves. US doctors say they believe allowing patients to update their own medical records would increase their engagement in their own health, improve care satisfaction and boost understanding of health conditions. Translation: Doctors are optimistic about the potential for health trackers and wearable devices.

"The industry needs to adapt to a new generation of patients who are taking proactive roles in their healthcare and expect to have real-time data at their fingertips," Safavi added. "When patients have a greater role in the record-keeping process, it can increase their understanding of conditions, improve motivation and serve as a clear differentiator for clinical care provided by physicians."

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