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Eight-country survey shows worldwide agreement on Health IT benefits, but a generational divide does exist.
While the majority of doctors are convinced that “Connected Health” brings benefits, a surprising amount of doctors are skeptical of the associated healthcare IT benefits. Research among more than 3,700 doctors in eight countries reveals ripe opportunities to accelerate a broad national Connected Health initiative, according to a new survey from Accenture. The survey illuminates prevailing perceptions (based on demographics and geography) among doctors today over the future of Connected Health. While the survey illustrates similarities and differences in perceptions of healthcare IT, the findings clearly show that the broadest, fastest path to integrated, effective health practices requires outreach, education and changing mindsets among some doctors, especially those over 50 who are not actively using healthcare IT.
Many doctors, however, remain unconvinced that healthcare technologies, such as electronic medical records (EMR) and health information exchanges (HIE), will improve patient outcomes, improve access to services or reduce unneeded procedures. Interestingly, these are the benefits most often touted for widespread adoption of EMR and HIE and, therefore, this disconnect creates barriers to fully realising the benefits of a truly Connected Health ecosystem.
Connected Health is an approach to healthcare delivery that leverages the systematic application of healthcare IT to facilitate the accessing and sharing of information, as well as subsequent analysis of health data across healthcare systems. It is using knowledge and technology in new ways for more effective, efficient and affordable healthcare. The future of healthcare entails systems and infrastructures that enable information management, analysis and sharing—it is the engine of what Accenture calls Insight Driven Health.
High-level benefits of Connected Health include:
Accenture conducted this survey in Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Singapore, Spain and the United States from August to September 2011. Accenture surveyed approximately 500 doctors per country (200 in Singapore) on their attitudes towards and perceived benefits of healthcare IT. This survey is one part of a comprehensive Connected Health study that will be published in early 2012. The study incorporates results from this doctor survey as well as input from interviews with more than 150 industry experts, and 10 case studies of successful Connected Health implementations.
It was surprising that a high percentage of doctors either did not know of or did not associate a positive impact on the use of EMR and HIE with some of the main selling points of a Connected Health system. Among the key findings:
Almost half of doctors surveyed, 44 percent, are not convinced that healthcare IT will help reduce the number of unnecessary interventions and procedures.
Forty-three percent of doctors are not convinced that healthcare IT systems will result in increased speed of access to health services.
Almost 40 percent are not convinced that the use of healthcare IT will bring improved outcomes for patients.
The Accenture survey found that doctors under 50 are more likely to believe that healthcare IT has a positive impact across a wide range of perceived benefits, including improved health outcomes for patients, increased speed of access to health services and reductions in medical errors. More than 72 percent of doctors under 50 think EMR and HIE will improve care coordination across settings and service boundaries. And, 73 percent believe these technologies will offer better access to quality data for clinical research. These numbers vary, however, for doctors over 50—only 65 percent and 68 percent respectively perceive the same benefits.
Despite all eight countries being at a relatively early stage of the Connected Health journey, there is evidence that doctors truly desire change. These findings clearly signal ways that governments and healthcare organisations can speed progress toward Connected Health. There is work ahead to fully convince physicians that healthcare IT will ensure better patient care, lower healthcare costs and make them more effective and efficient.
Building organisational development and change management capabilities are crucial steps for success to help convince the majority of doctors of the value of healthcare IT, and thus drive its progress. Strategic change management is among the six dynamics that must be fully executed for a country to realise the full benefits of Connected Health. The soon-to-be-released study will explore all six of these dynamics in detail.
Clinician involvement—especially among doctors—is also a central theme of those organisations and systems that are succeeding in the development of Connected Health. This is more than simple communication. It requires doctors’ active involvement in planning change and guiding its implementation with their peers and colleagues.
Change must be manageable. Where top-down, whole-system re-engineering has been attempted at a national level, there have been as many failures as successes. When policymakers and health leaders have identified achievable targets and tangible, medium-term outcomes, rapid progress is possible.
December 22, 2011
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