When studying health-IT and pay-for-performance plans, researchers usually focus on hospitals and general practitioners, and these groups usually fear that implementing new procedures will interfere with their work.
But a study released Sept. 15 found that community cancer doctors are adopting technology necessary to collect data and are ready to support pay for performance, or P4P, programs.
Ninety-four percent of surveyed oncologists said EMRs (electronic medical records) would be required to manage their practice efficiently and effectively, and 70 percent said they believed P4P programs could control patient costs and improve outcomes.
Traditionally, doctors are paid for each procedure they perform, so they are paid more if they perform more and more-complicated techniques.
P4P programs tie doctors compensation to patient outcomes or to evidence that doctors follow care guidelines.
P4P advocates maintain that such systems reward doctors who keep patients healthier and discourage unnecessary care.
P4P critics say such programs encourage doctors to turn away the sickest and hardest-to-treat patients and cannot handle patients diverse needs.
The American Medical Association advocates that P4P programs for physicians should be voluntary and serve to supplement rather than withhold physician pay.
A major barrier to implementing P4P programs has been the increased need for documentation.
EMRs that record and collate details of care are considered a potential solution.
The survey found that just under half (48 percent) of community oncologists are currently using an EMR.
Of those not using EMRs, 46 percent said they planned to integrate an EMR into their practice over the next 12 months.
These adoption rates are considerably higher than those reported for general-practice community physicians, particularly for those working alone or with just a handful of other doctors.
The rates also reflect doctors perception that they will soon be joining P4P programs.
Four-fifths of the doctors said they would participate in a P4P program within a year.
More than 90 percent of the oncologists said they believed P4P programs would improve patient outcomes (generally understood to mean longer life and less pain).
The survey was commissioned by OTN, a company that distributes drugs to cancer doctors and often acts as a liaison between oncologists and cancer-drug companies.
The online survey results came from 189 medical oncologists in private practice.
OTN offers practice management software that it says can track the use of treatment guidelines, but the software focuses on making billing and claims processing more efficient.
In contrast, EMR software focuses on storing information that doctors need to make decisions about patients care.