Doctor using EMR softwarePrimary care providers (PCP) have implemented electronic medical record software at a higher rate than many other physician specialties, with 69 percent of providers using EMR software in 2012 compared with just 46 percent in 2009. The fact that EMR adoption rates have doubled in a three year period shows that PCPs understand the value of the software in improving care delivery and reducing costs. However, there are still improvements to be made. According to a Commonwealth Fund survey of primary care doctors in ten different countries, many providers still complain about not getting patient data on time from hospitals and specialists, hindering their ability to provide comprehensive care.

For the survey, researchers polled general internists, family practice physicians and pediatricians in the following countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Results were then compared to data collected from a similar survey in 2009. What researchers found is that, despite more doctors using EMR software, most physicians do not receive timely access to patient data after they are seen by a specialist, nor are they informed by a hospital when a patient of theirs is discharged.

Physicians in Switzerland were most likely to receive information from specialists when needed (27 percent), while those in the Netherlands were least likely to (1 percent). The U.S. landed in the middle of the spectrum and tied with Canada with 11 percent of doctors receiving timely access to patient information. “Lack of integration between primary care, specialty care, and hospitals can put patients at risk and result in duplicative care, particularly for patients with complex chronic illnesses,” said the paper published about the study in the journal Health Affairs.

As far as receiving notification from a hospital following a patient’s discharge, the average for the ten countries was 36 percent. The U.S. fell below the international average, with only 26 percent of physicians reporting that they always receive notification of discharge from hospitals.

This shows that there is still a lot of progress to be made with regards to the U.S. healthcare industry’s goal toward greater care coordination and patient-centered care. While EMR software can help physicians meet this goal, there are still some barriers, such as a lack of interoperability between electronic medical record systems. Vendors and health IT technicians will need to continue working on this flaw to ensure that the electronic exchange of patient information becomes an everyday occurrence.