- Patient care coordination appears to be more of a challenge in the United States than in other countries. Fewer U.S. primary care physicians receive information from specialists about changes in their patients’ medications and care plans than their counterparts in seven other high-income countries, according to a Commonwealth Fund study published this week in Health Affairs.
- Primary care physicians in the United States also trailed their counterparts in other countries when it came to receiving information about when their patients visited an emergency department or were admitted to a hospital, according to the Commonwealth Fund, which surveyed 13,000 primary care physicians in 11 countries.
- The lack of interoperability between electronic medical-record systems might be part of the problem. The study found that slightly more than half of U.S. primary care physicians said they can exchange clinical summaries, test results or medication lists with physicians located outside their practice.
Efforts to rein in healthcare spending and improve health outcomes often focus on the role of primary care providers to manage patients’ care across specialists, sites of care and at home.
However, care coordination remains challenging in the United States. The lack of interoperability among disparate electronic medical records is part of the challenge, making it difficult for providers and other caregivers to exchange information easily.
HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has been working to address this problem. The office released a proposed rule earlier this year that calls on the industry to adopt application programming interfaces, or APIs, which are standardized ways of transmitting data between computer systems. It also has proposed rules defining what is and isn’t information blocking.
For the current study, the Commonwealth Fund surveyed primary care physicians in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States from January to June 2019.
Primary care physicians in nearly all of the countries surveyed were more likely to receive information on changes to their patients’ medications or care plans from specialists than their counterparts in the United States. Fewer than half, or 49%, of U.S. primary care physicians reported receiving this information, compared with 77% of physicians in New Zealand, 73% in France, 70% in Norway, 69% in the United Kingdom, 60% in Switzerland, 58% in Canada and 57% in Australia.
Meanwhile, 48% of U.S. physicians were notified when one of their patients visited an emergency department, compared with 85% of physicians in New Zealand, 84% in the Netherlands and 66% in the United Kingdom.
Physicians in the Netherlands (82%), New Zealand (79%), Norway (69%), and the United Kingdom (63%) were more likely to be notified when one of their patients was admitted to a hospital than U.S. physicians (53%).
And fewer U.S. physicians (40%) said they frequently coordinate their patients’ needs with social service agencies than physicians in Germany (74%), the United Kingdom (65%), Norway (57%), New Zealand (52%) and the Netherlands (47%).