[This article was originally published in Healthcare Policy, 9(1)]

Objective: To describe the association between health information technology (HIT) adoption and family physicians' patient visit length in Canada after controlling for physician and practice characteristics.

Method: HIT adoption is defined in terms of four types of HIT usage: no HIT use (NO), basic HIT use without electronic medical record system (HIT), basic HIT use with electronic medical record (EMR) and advanced HIT use (EMR + HIT). The outcome variable is the average time spent on a patient visit (visit length). The data for this study came from the 2007 and 2010 National Physician Surveys. A log-linear model was used to analyze our visit length outcome.

Results: The average time worked per week was found to be in the neighbourhood of 36 hours in both 2007 and 2010, but users of EMR and EMR + HIT were undertaking fewer patient visits per week relative to NO users. Multivariable analysis showed that EMR and EMR + HIT were associated with longer average time spent per patient visit by about 7.7% (p<0.05) and 6.7% (p<0.01), respectively, compared to NO users in 2007. In 2010, EMR was not statistically significant and EMR + HIT was associated with a 4% (p<0.1) increased visit length. A variety of practice-related variables such as the mode of remuneration, work setting and interprofessional practice influenced visit length in the expected direction.

Conclusion: Use of HIT is found to be associated with fewer patient visits and longer visit length among family physicians in Canada relative to NO users, but this association weakened in the multivariable analysis of 2010.