Physicians in large group practices are 7.7 times more likely to practice in a "high-tech" information technology environment than physicians in solo practices, according to a survey by the Commonwealth Fund. Researchers described a "high-tech office" as having at least four of nine IT tools -- electronic medical records; electronic ordering of drugs and tests; electronic access to test results and decision support; e-mail to patients and physicians; and electronic reminders, drug alerts and follow-up care prompts. Some 60% of physicians in medical groups of 50 or more doctors said they routinely or occasionally used an EMR, compared with 25% of physicians in solo practices, the survey found.
The gap between large practices and solo and small group practices poses a challenge for policymakers, said Anne-Marie Audet, lead researcher and assistant vice president of quality improvement at the Commonwealth Fund. "We have to think about the fact that over three-quarters of office physicians are in the small practice setting. So, whatever policies we develop have to address these small groups or in six or eight years we'll be in the same place we are now," Audet said. The survey of 1,837 randomly selected physicians was conducted by mail and online from March to May 2003. Read full survey results. -- by Joseph Conn