Temple researchers released the results of a study on the use of Internet tools to increase disease reporting by physicians.
Dr. Lawrence Ward, an assistant professor of medicine at Temple and author of the study, said the use of Internet tools is a more convenient way for physicians to report diseases.
“The more convenient you make it for physicians to have access to the indications for reporting as well as the means to report, the more likely they are to report at the point of care,” Ward said.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health requires all physicians to report diseases under law. These reports are to be facilitated to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.
Despite the law, not all diseases are being reported. Ward said there are a number of reasons why physicians are so infrequent in their reports, two of them being time and poor education on how to make a report.
“First, physicians are under so much time pressure that they do not feel they have the time to report,” Ward said. “Second, they are not educated in medical school or residency on the importance of reporting, nor do they learn how to report. Combine these barriers, and you have the significant amount of underreporting that we have today.”
To test the use of Internet tools, Ward and his team of researchers conducted a 24-week study in Philadelphia hospitals in order to examine their reporting methods. Following the initial study, an additional 24-week study was conducted, examining five other hospitals.
Government Health IT, an independent health magazine, reported that more than 16,500 physicians at the five hospitals were sent three separate e-mails, all of which included a link to an informational Web site.
The Web site provided physicians with a poster of reportable diseases, blank case report forms used by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, a link to their Web site, as well as instructions on how to download and install a program for handheld devices.
The program included ways to determine whether or not a condition was worth reporting, to whom it should be reported and contact information for the PDPH.
The test proved to be successful, with a reported 866 visits to the site, 207 downloads of the poster of reportable diseases, 130 downloads of the program for handheld devices and 122 downloads of the case report forms.
With the use of e-mail notifications, hand-held device programs and an informational website, researchers said they hope the Internet tools will encourage physicians to report diseases more frequently. According to Government Health IT, 80 percent of physicians already use the Internet at work, and 40 percent own handheld devices.
However, the study still showed a sign of underreporting by physicians. Ward said that more studies in the future will be necessary in order to improve upon the gap.
“Much of medicine still runs the way it ran 10 years ago,” Ward said. He added that several examination rooms within hospitals are still lacking computer access.
“I believe this is just another example of the medical field playing catch up to the business world in this aspect of practice management,” he said.
Kylee Messner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.