Consumer Preferences Could Pressure Docs Toward EHR Adoption: Deloitte

Along with federal mandates and pressure from insurers, consumers' views that doctors are not modern could be the push they need to implement health IT.

Government and consumer demand for more modern physician practices could help spur the adoption of health IT such as electronic health records, according to a new paper from the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.

Health care reform such as the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) and the Affordable Care Act are pressuring doctors to adopt health IT.

Of doctors surveyed by Deloitte, 45 percent reported that their practice has no current plans to adopt an EHR platform that meets meaningful-use criteria. In addition, 71 percent of solo practitioners lacked plans to adopt EHRs that meet the government's mandate.

The Deloitte survey of doctors, which were selected in 2012 from the American Medical Association's master file of physicians, revealed a strong difference between adopters and nonadopters of health IT, Harry Greenspun, senior advisor, health care transformation and technology for the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, told eWEEK.

"There's still an element of people sticking their head in the sand," Greenspun said. He noted that the same doctors who are not using health IT may still be making restaurant reservations on their phones or using online banking. Therefore, their skepticism on use of IT is likely to be reversed.

"They know that every other industry has gone this way, and they wouldn't stand for using a service that didn't provide the kind of information," Greenspun said. "The difference they see in terms of immediate plans really relates to how strong they think the pressure is on them to adopt."

This pressure corresponds to areas of the country in which broadband service is available, he noted.

"If you look at the availability of broadband around the country, big swaths of the country are without access," said Greenspun.

Areas without high-speed broadband access will probably also be without health IT, he noted.

Health insurers could also play a role in influencing doctors to adopt EHRs and electronic prescribing. They may choose to add doctors that use health IT effectively to coordinate care and reduce administrative paperwork, Deloitte reported.

In addition to the federal government's meaningful-use program spurring doctors to adopt EHRs, consumer perceptions could also be a factor, according to Greenspun.

"Consumers may view that nonadopters will be providing inferior service and lower quality," he said. "If my corner hardware store seems more modern than my doctor's office, maybe I start to wonder how good this place really is."

Doctors unable to message securely or share electronic data with other providers could be viewed as inferior by consumers, he explained. "While meaningful use is one of the drivers, we'll also see consumers as a strong driver toward adoption."

In addition to consumer preferences, doctors will also face penalties under the HITECH Act for failure to implement EHRs.

With physicians accountable for outcomes under the Affordable Care Act, they'll need electronic data to share information and coordinate care. In addition, analytics will help them follow patient health patterns, and the pressure to adopt more sophisticated systems will bring this shift, Greenspun said.