Primary Care Capacity as Insurance Coverage Expands

Examining the Role of Health Information Technology
Doctors examine a patient at a clinic.

Despite Health Information Technology (HIT) touted benefits, this study shows that physicians using a greater number of HITs were significantly less likely to anticipate capacity to accept new patients.

The Issue:
With millions of Americans gaining insurance coverage through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), many are facing the challenge of establishing care with a primary care provider (PCP). This article examines the role health information technology (HIT) plays in PCPs' ability and capacity to accept new patients.

Key Findings:

  • Of 739 survey respondents, 83 percent of PCPs reported they would have the capacity to accept new patients in the future.
  • Physicians using a greater number of HITs were significantly less likely to anticipate capacity to accept new patients.
  • Among those noting capacity to accept new patients, greater use of HITs was associated with significantly lower odds of anticipated capacity to accept privately insured patients, but not Medicaid or Medicare.

Conclusion:
While HIT is often noted for its potential ability to improve PCP efficiency and capacity, this study suggests otherwise. It is important for unintended consequences of both HIT and insurance coverage expansions to be considered to ensure the capacity to care for the newly insured is maximized.

About the Study:
Using data from the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation and the University of Michigan Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit 2012 Survey of Michigan Physicians, this study included 739 respondents from an original sample of 1,500 Michigan physicians from three primary care specialties, pediatrics, internal medicine, and family medicine.