Healthcare // Electronic Health Records
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Many Doctors Already Using E-Medical Records

While 40% of doctors had electronic medical record systems in their offices in 2008 and 2009, fewer than 7% of systems are fully functional.

While the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's $20 billion-plus health IT stimulus programs aims to drive e-health record adoption among healthcare providers, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that about 4 in 10 doctor offices say they're already using these systems either partially or fully.

The National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS), conducted annually by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), is an annual nationally representative survey of patient visits to office-based physicians that collects information on use of e-medical/e-health record systems.

CDC has been conducting the NAMCS asking about doctors' use of e-health record systems since 2001, but in 2005 started adding questions to dig into more details about the functionality of the systems, said Esther Hing, a CDC statistician involved with the 2008 and 2009 survey research.

The new CDC findings are based on a sample of 2,000 mail-in and 3,200 in-person physician surveys conducted in 2008, as well as preliminary data from similar mail-in and in-person surveys conducted in 2009. Doctors surveyed in person complete interviews conducted by Census bureau personnel.

In 2008, 2,233 doctors in total responded to the mail-in and in-person surveys, while preliminary results for the 2009 research indicate that 1,054 physicians responded to the mail-in survey. Totals for in-person surveys conducted in 2009 aren't yet available, said Hing in an interview with InformationWeek.

In 2008, 41.3% of all surveyed doctor offices reported using "any EHR or EMR" system, and in 2009 that figure grew to 43.9%, based on the preliminary figures of mail-in polls only.

Although final survey statistics aren't yet available, the surveys indicate that physicians in larger practices are more likely to have EMR or EHR systems compared to doctors in smaller practices, said Hing.

The CDC said the estimates were obtained from the question, "Does this practice use electronic medical records or electronic health records (not including billing records)?"

Choices of answers included: "Yes, all electronic," "Yes, part paper and part electronic," "No," and "Don't know."

In the 2007 NAMCS, 34% of doctors reported using an EMR or EHR in their practices.

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