Hospitals, Health Systems Drive EHR Adoption

More than half of U.S. medical offices affiliated with large healthcare groups have implemented electronic health records, ahead of the U.S. average of 39%.

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Medical offices owned by hospitals and health systems saw the biggest jump in electronic health record (EHR) adoption rates between January and October 2010, according to the latest results of an ongoing survey released Monday by SK&A, a provider of healthcare information solutions and research.

The latest findings from the biannual survey, "Physician Office Usage of Electronic Healthcare Records Software," show EHR adoption at hospital-owned offices grew from 44.1% to 54.9%, a 10.8% increase. Adoption at heath-system-owned offices grew from 50.2% to 61.2%, an 11% increase. Overall, U.S. medical office EHR adoption has grown from 36.1% to 38.7%, a 3% increase.

SK&A's report is an ongoing study that tracks EHR adoption data and summarizes market research from 213,500 medical offices representing 643,000 physicians.

"Physician groups owned by hospitals and health systems are moving at lightning speed," Dave Escalante, SK&A's VP of data and information solutions, told InformationWeek. "In a span of just nine months, these office types had an EHR adoption growth rate of more than 10%, indicating their parent companies have the financial means and know-how to support immediate system-wide changes."

Other findings of the report include:

-- Physician specialties with the highest adoption rates are radiology (60%), pathology (60%), aerospace medicine (59%), dialysis (59%), and emergency medicine (58%).

-- Northern (41%) and southern (40%) states have the highest rates of adoption.

-- The top five leading states for EHR adoption are Minnesota (63%), Utah (55%), Wisconsin (52%), North Dakota (52%), and Massachusetts (51%).

-- The most commonly used EHR functions are electronic patient notes (28%), electronic labs/x-rays (27%), and electronic prescribing (26%).

According to Escalante, the survey indicates that most of the opportunities for EHR software and services providers will be among small, mid-size, and privately owned practices that have yet to purchase and install EHR systems. He also warned that if these small practices haven't started their EHR adoption plans, they could face difficulties ahead.

"Smaller medical offices, especially those with two or fewer physicians in the practice, face the threat of getting left behind," said Escalante. "It may take them up to a year to select and install a system and train their staff. Doctors who wait until the last minute to start their homework will face a flood of doctors needing to comply and fewer resources available to guide them through the process."

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