Survey: Medicare patients not IT beneficiaries

“Most Medicare Outpatient Visits are to Physicians with Limited Clinical Information Technology”

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As Medicare officials move toward giving physicians increased fees for using information technology as an aid to their treatment of patients, researchers have found that most Medicare patients are not seeing doctors who use clinical IT tools in their practices.

The Center for Studying Health System Change, a nonprofit research organization in Washington, D.C., reported this week that a minority of Medicare patients in 2001 visited doctors who used clinical IT tools.

The findings come as no surprise, because the usage rates mirror those of doctors with patients from the general population. However, the numbers could serve as a baseline for tracking the adoption of IT in coming years. “That’s the primary reason we went ahead and published it,” said Alwyn Cassil, a spokeswoman for the center.

Forty-nine percent of the doctors used IT to obtain treatment guidelines for various ailments, but only 9 percent used electronic prescribing. One-third exchanged clinical data with other doctors, 30 percent retrieved patient notes using IT and 23 percent used IT to generate reminders about the need for preventive care.

In general, smaller offices used IT less than larger ones. It mattered little whether the patients were sick or relatively healthy, the researchers reported. IT use rates also were about the same in urban and rural areas, and they did not vary with the race of the patients.

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