Most Medicare Outpatient Visits to Physicians with Limited Clinical IT

Media Advisory
July 7, 2005

Alwyn Cassil (202) 264-3484 or

WASHINGTON, DC—A majority of Medicare fee-for-service outpatient visits in 2001 were to physicians without significant information technology (IT) support for patient care, according to a study released today by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC).

Through a linkage of Medicare claims data to HSC’s nationally representative physician survey, HSC researchers found that more than half of Medicare outpatient visits (57%) were to physicians in practices that used IT for no more than one of the following five clinical functions: obtaining treatment guidelines, exchanging clinical data with other physicians, accessing patient notes, generating preventive treatment reminders for the physician’s use, and writing prescriptions.

The study’s authors—Joy Grossman, Ph.D., HSC senior researcher; and Marie Reed, M.H.S., HSC data manager, found that access rates across individual clinical IT functions varied considerably. While half of Medicare outpatient visits were to physicians in practices using IT to obtain treatment guidelines, the proportion of visits to physicians in practices with IT support for other patient care functions was much lower, falling to 9 percent for electronic prescribing.

The study also found that more vulnerable beneficiaries-including those who were sicker, living in low-income or rural areas, or who were black—did not have significant differences in access to physicians with clinical IT.

Based on a linked sample that included claims for more than 506,000 Medicare outpatient visits to 8,641 physicians, the study’s findings were weighted to be nationally representative of all Medicare fee-for-service physician outpatient visits in 2001. Additional findings are detailed in a new HSC Data Bulletin—Most Medicare Outpatient Visits are to Physicians with Limited Clinical Information Technologyavailable here.

### ###

The Center for Studying Health System Change is a nonpartisan policy research organization committed to providing objective and timely research on the nation’s changing health system to help inform policy makers and contribute to better health care policy. HSC, based in Washington, D.C., is funded principally by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is affiliated with Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.