Technology will influence the answer to this question, and that’s exactly what a recent Practice Fusion survey conducted by GfK Roper sought to explore. The survey sample included 1,035 adults aged 18 and over. It aimed to identify how many individual doctors participants estimated they had seen in their lifetimes. This estimate included all primary care, specialists, hospital and urgent care providers.

According to survey results, American patients have seen an average of 18.7 different physicians during their lives. This number increases substantially for patients over 65 years of age, which reported seeing an average of 28.4 physicians. These results were surprisingly high, and provoke one to consider the extensive reams of paper medical records that would be generated during encounters with so many physicians over a lifetime.

This study revealed that the average physician appointment takes 13 pages to document, and the average patient’s health is dependent on at least 200 pieces of paper in almost 19 different locations. Now, consider how these paper records could possibly be transferred to, from, and between such a high number physicians. In the paper charting world, this process is nearly impossible.

This study justifies the need for interoperable electronic health records. This technology will be necessary to streamline patients’ health records so that they can be efficiently and accurately transported between different providers of healthcare throughout patients’ lives.

For more information about this study, see Practice Fusion’s press release. For more information on Practice Fusion, see the HIMSS10 EHRtv interview with Ryan Howard, CEO of Practice Fusion.