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Physician IT

More Canadian docs using EMR, but lag other countries

NEW YORK – A new study by the Commonwealth Fund has found that usage of EMRs by Canadian primary care physicians jumped to 37% this year, up from just 23% in 2006. While EMR usage in Canada has progressed, it is still the lowest among the 11 countries surveyed. The highest usage is in the Netherlands, where 99% of primary care physicians employ electronic medical records, according to the study.

The study, titled A Survey of Primary Care Physicians in Eleven Countries, 2009: Perspectives on Care, Costs, and Experiences, can be found on the web at:

According to the report, utilization of EMR systems by primary care doctors in the United States increased to 46% in 2009, up from 28% three years ago.

The report analyzes a variety of applications connected with the electronic medical record and finds that the most extensive use of EMR-related applications is made by primary-care physicians in Australia.

The report says that Australian doctors routinely use EMRs and IT in the following ways:

• 86% of Australian doctors use EMRs for electronic ordering of lab tests. (Compared with 18% in Canada.)
• 93% have electronic access to patients’ test results. (Compared with 41% in Canada.)
• 93% conduct electronic prescribing of medications. (Compared with 27% in Canada.)
• 92% have electronic alerts for problems with dose and adverse interactions. (Compared with 20% in Canada.)
• 92% conduct electronic entry of clinical notes. (Compared with 30% in Canada.)

New Zealand’s doctors scored high on the use of computer systems to send reminders to patients for preventive or follow up care. In New Zealand, 97% of primary care physicians use reminders for these reasons, with 92% of the doctors using computerized alerts. (The remainder use manual reminders.)

By contrast, in Canada, 31% of primary care doctors send reminders to patients for preventive or follow up care. Of them, only 10% use computerized reminders.

New Zealand and Australian doctors also scored highest when asked whether they make comprehensive use of their EMR. Of doctors using 14 different features of an advanced EMR, 92% of New Zealand physicians and 91% of Australia’s doctors are making use of all 14 features. Only 14% of Canadian doctors use all 14 features – the lowest figure among the 11 nations.

The 14 functions include: electronic medical record; electronic prescribing and ordering of tests; electronic access test results, Rx alerts, clinical notes; computerized system for tracking lab tests, guidelines; alerts to provide patients with test results, preventive/follow-up care reminders; and computerized list of patients by diagnosis, medications, due for tests or preventive care.

Tracking the progress of patients after they’ve left the doctor’s office is a weak point in Canada – here Canada scores second worst. While 89% of British medical practices routinely receive data on patient clinical outcomes, just 17% of Canadian medical practices receive this information. Only France scored lower, with 12% of doctors receiving patient outcome data.

Posted November 12, 2009