Although the use of e-mail and other Internet-based and computerized information resources has become routine in most professions, a survey of physicians across the U.S. has found that fewer than half of them incorporate these common technologies into routine patient practice. In a paper to appear in the November Journal of General Internal Medicine, now available online, investigators from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) report results of a 2004 survey of physicians across the country.
"We are investing tens of billions of dollars in health information technology [IT] nationally, yet the medical profession has been very slow to adopt these tools for clinical care," says Richard Grant, MD, MPH, of the MGH Division of General Medicine, the paper's lead author. "We were shocked at the very low rate of basic IT use, particularly among solo-practice and non-academic physicians. I'm sure that the vast majority of them personally use e-mail and the Internet, but most do not have effective ways to integrate these tools into clinical practice."
The current article is the first of several reports from the Institute on Medicine as a Profession Study. This survey was sent to more than 3,000 physicians in six specialties internal medicine, family practice, pediatrics, anesthesiology, general surgery and cardiology randomly selected from the membership in the American Medical Association. Along with questions about many aspects of medical professionalism, respondents were asked to indicate how frequently they used five information technologies: e-mail communication with patients, e-mail communication with colleagues, online access to continuing medical education, online access to scientific journals, and computerized or online texts and other information designed to support clinical decisions.
The almost 1,700 survey respondents were most likely to report commonly using computerized decision support tools and online journal access
Contact: Sue McGreevey
Massachusetts General Hospital