More than 70% of physicians in Massachusetts say that computers are becoming a necessary part of medicine, though the vast majority still restrict information technology to the business and administrative sides of their practices, according to a new statewide survey.
A whopping 84% of the 423 Massachusetts Medical Society members queried agree that computers can have a "substantial impact" on the quality of care and 75% say that quality already has improved because of IT. Another 78% say that computers have a positive impact on interactions between clinicians, the survey says.
"The results clearly show that physicians understand the advantages of using information technology," Massachusetts Medical Society President Thomas Sullivan, M.D., says. "We know computerization can provide benefits for quality improvement, patient safety and enhanced efficiency."
However, the results also reveal some disparities between attitudes and actions. Among the survey pool, 85% say physicians should write prescriptions electronically, yet 49% have no plans to do so.
Nearly equal numbers do not intend to computerize the recording of patient summaries or the collection of treatment records in their own practices, even though 89% and 83%, respectively, say physicians should do so for these two functions.
"The physician community has much work to do to convince itself that computerization really has tangible benefits for both the patient and the doctor," Sullivan says. He surmises that many physicians are turned off by the costs and time involved in implementation of clinical information systems.
Researchers from the University of Hong Kong Department of Community Medicine conducted the survey with the state society last spring and released the results today. The Massachusetts Medical Society says the school got involved because it had conducted a similar investigation of Hong Kong physicians.