Doctors are among the most robust users of electronic medical records in Canada and two thirds of them say it’s improving the quality of patient care, according to the National Physician Survey released today.
Seventy-five per cent of physicians report using electronic records to enter or retrieve clinical patient notes on a laptop or desktop. The number has tripled from 26% in 2007.
“A huge growth in the use of information technology is taking place across Canada,” said Dr. Cecil Rorabeck, President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. “Doctors are not only using information technology more, but finding it enhances their ability to provide high-quality patient care.”
Sixty-five percent of physicians reported seeing better or much better quality of care since the implementation of electronic records, a rise of nine percentage points from last year. Physicians in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario were most likely to report using electronic records at close to 81% in each according to the NPS findings. Cancer specialists had very high usage with radiation oncologists 96%, of medical oncologists 97% and for family physicians 77%.
“It’s great to see more family physicians moving to electronic record systems and electronic tools,” says Dr. Garey Mazowita, College of Family Physicians of Canada President. “The benefits include faster access to test results and reviews of medication lists and interactions, and that means more timely health care for our patients. Going forward it will be important to enhance issues related to technical support, system compatibility and privacy requirements to ensure maximum efficiency of the technology.”
Most frequent benefits that were quoted include identifying lab results, ability to access a patient’s chart remotely, being alerted to critical test results or to potential medication warnings.
Electronic tools used by physicians other than EMRs are also on the rise. The most frequent use of electronic tools is the access to lab/diagnostic test results — 80 per cent compared to 38% in 2010. Fifty-eight per cent of physicians use electronic tools to review what medications are being taken by a patient and 45%to provide warnings for drug interactions as well as for referrals to other physicians.
Physicians reported several challenges in accessing information: 52% reported technical glitches, 46% with compatibility issues with other systems and 26% complaining about firewall or security issues.
“Adoption of information technology among physicians has reached a tipping point, and we’re starting to see significant improvement on quality and efficiency of care as a result,” said Dr. Cindy Forbes, President-elect of the Canadian Medical Association. “However, governments still need to keep their ‘pedal to the metal’ and continue to financially support physician efforts to implement EMRs so that we may fully unlock the promise of digital health system-wide.”
The 2014 survey builds on the previous surveys with a focus on use of information technology by physicians of Canada. This year, more than 10,000 licensed physicians from across the country completed the online electronic survey.
Since 2004, the NPS has been the largest census survey in Canada that gathers the opinions of physicians, medical residents and students on a wide range of health care issues.
The NPS is implemented collaboratively by the College of Family Physicians of Canada, Canadian Medical Association and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.