Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and The Commonwealth Fund believe that the growing use of health information technology (IT) and electronic-health (e-health) applications impact the future demand for physicians. Based on their analysis of recent trends in digital health care and a review of the scientific literature, the authors conclude that patients' future use of physician services will change dramatically as electronic health records and consumer e-health "apps" proliferate. The findings appear in the November issue of the journal Health Affairs.
"The results of our study are important because they provide a forward looking snapshot of how health IT will profoundly impact the American health care workforce over the next decade or two," said the study's lead author Jonathan Weiner, DrPH, professor of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School and director of the Center for Population Health Information Technology (CPHIT).
Today, in large part due to federal "meaningful use" subsidies, over 70 percent of office-based physicians are making use of electronic health records. Only a decade ago, the figure was about 10 percent. Also, consumers are increasingly using the Internet and mobile phones to manage their health. In the not-too-distant future, it is likely that the majority of patients' interactions with the health care system will be digitally mediated.
Although there is considerable room for further empirical research on health IT's impact on health care workforce market dynamics, the authors conclude that few trends will change the future face of American health care as widely as health IT and e-health. "It is essential that workforce planning analyses provide policymakers and stakeholders with evidence and ideas that support rational decision making and preparation for a future that is likely to be dramatically different from the past," said study co-author Dr. David Blumenthal MD, MPP, president of The Commonwealth Fund and the former National Coordinator for Health IT for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The authors reviewed health informatics and health services research literature through June 2013 using MEDLINE, the Cochrane Database and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's database on health IT.