Internet essential for 20% of physicians

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Despite recent speculation of techno-phobia in the medical community, physicians are Internet savvy and awaiting the necessary tools to take the practice of medicine online at the point of care.

More than 50% of US physicians use the Internet daily, according to the largest and most rigorous study* of its kind, but only 20% feel it is essential to their professional practice.

The study examines how the Internet has influenced interaction between doctors and patients through the analysis of in-depth interviews with more than 1,200 practicing physicians in the US. In particular, it details how physicians are using the Internet, its impact in the clinical and professional setting and the prognosis for physicians, patients, payors and pharmaceutical and eHealth companies.

“Although healthcare is said to be one of the last pre-digital industries, this study shows that the barriers to the electronic age are not user-fear or ignorance,” said Manuel Lowenhaupt MD, principal of Deloitte Health Care Practice. “Physicians embrace the Internet when it improves their ability to do their work, to improve their productivity. The challenge is for the Internet industry to demonstrate value to the front-line care provider.”

Among the most important findings are that 90% of physicians have accessed the web in the past year and 55% are daily users. In addition, about 24% of physicians are ‘professional users’, who are defined as spending at least three-quarters of their online time for professional purposes.

However, most physicians are not using the Internet for clinical or administrative purposes, nor are they using online medical records or communicating with patients online.

“There has yet to be a compelling value proposition that would lead physicians to integrate the Internet into their clinical workflow,” said Mark Bard, a director in Cyber Dialogue’s Health Practice. “The majority of physicians, though, are very excited about the future of the web to improve communication among patients, payors and providers, and most of them anticipate that they will rely on the web much more in five years.”

Ruth Given, Deloitte Research, director for Health Care concurs. “Our research supports the view that physicians’ reticence to adopt online services is not due to the medical community being techno-phobic but rather is due to key economic deterrents. These include the immediate out-of-pocket costs for Internet connectivity, the related physician time costs of learning and using new systems, as well as the financial risk of possibly investing in a wrong / outdated technology.

“These concerns are even more pressing in this era of managed care; the opportunity lies in identifying ways to overcome these financial limitations.”

For activities related to connectivity and administrative services, 21% of the physicians email their patients and 4% use online prescribing. This signals a significant opportunity for companies focused on automating existing processes and injecting efficiency into labor-intensive activities. Still, the study found that concerns related to privacy and security are keeping many physicians from fully embracing the Internet.

“Despite the belief that physicians are techno-phobes, their personal use of the Internet has already reached critical mass,” commented Thaddeus Grimes-Gruczka, vice president of Cyber Dialogue’s Health Practice. “Vital factors essential for making the jump from personal usage to clinical use include integrating technology into workflow at the point of care, addressing privacy and security concerns, and demonstrating how online technologies will help physicians practice medicine more efficiently and effectively.”

* Taking the Pulse: Physicians and the Internet, was conducted by Cyber Dialogue, and Deloitte Research, the research arm of Deloitte Consulting and Deloitte & Touche.

Cyber Dialogue surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,200 practicing physicians in the US during June and July 2000. The sample was drawn from the American Medical Information physician database, the most comprehensive and updated database of physicians in the US today. Quotas were established to include samples of primary care physicians as well as representative groups from eleven identified specialist groups. The final data set was weighted to reflect national norms to account for minor sample variance with respect to age and gender.
‘Taking the Pulse’ contains a complete written analysis by Cyber Dialogue accompanied by extensive charts and graphs, providing a strategic, analytical and timely report of physician online behavior and attitudes. Inquiry time with Cyber Dialogue healthcare analysts and access to the complete database is also included.
Charter sponsors include: California HealthCare Foundation, GE, Guidant, Healinx, Healthology, Johnson & Johnson, Mdnetguide, Mediconsult, Medscape, The Permanente Federation, Quintiles and Salu.net.

Deloitte Health Care Institute provides research and insight into issues facing the health care industry and its leaders. Comprised of both consulting practitioners and research professionals from around the world, the institute combines industry experience with academic rigor.

Cyber Dialogue’s Health Practice provides a comprehensive analytical eCRM solution for healthcare companies. Clients include Pfizer, Merck-Medco, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Roche Diagnostics.

Deloitte Research Health Care Institute

Cyber Dialogue

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