Small Practices Finally Get On Board EHR Train

EHR adoption rates have doubled, and many more physicians say they intend to apply for Medicare or Medicaid EHR incentive payments.
7 Patient Education Tools
7 Patient Education Tools
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Between 2008 and 2011, the percentage of physicians who adopted basic electronic health records in their practice doubled from 17% to 34%, with adoption among primary care doctors nearly doubling during this period from 20% to 39%. And more than half of office-based physicians (57%) now use electronic health records (EHRs), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That's a 12% increase compared to 2010.

The CDC survey relied on interviews with 10,301 physicians across the country to find out how many office-based practices had installed EHRs, how many intend to apply for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, and how many are ready to meet the Meaningful Use Stage 1 core-set objectives. The survey also conducted a state-by-state comparison of EHR adoption.

"The survey results show progress. The incentive programs have had a major impact because it helps defray the cost for a lot of physician groups that otherwise may not have had the resources to implement an EHR," Esther Hing, co-author of the report and a survey statistician with the National Center for Health Statistics, told InformationWeek Healthcare.

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Other key findings of the report:

-- In 2011, 52% of physicians said they intend to apply for Medicare or Medicaid EHR incentive payments, a 26% increase from 2010.

-- About one-third of physicians (34%) reported having a system that met the criteria for a basic system, ranging by state from 16% in New Jersey to 61% in Minnesota. A basic EHR system has the ability to capture patient history and demographics, a patient problem list, physicians' clinical notes, a comprehensive list of patient's medications and allergies, computerized orders for prescriptions, and the ability to view laboratory and imaging results electronically.

-- In 2010, 43% of physicians planning to apply for Meaningful Use incentives had computerized systems that allow them to meet eight Stage 1 core-set objectives, with percentages by state ranging from 26% in Texas to 70% in Wisconsin.

-- Adoption of EHR systems varied greatly by state with the 2011 estimates showing that the percentage of physicians using any EHR system ranging from 40% in Louisiana to 84% in North Dakota. The numbers suggest that despite the financial challenges and disruptions to workflow that come with EHR implementation, many small physician practices have been able to overcome these difficulties.

"When doctors and hospitals use health IT, patients get better care and we save money," U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, said in a statement. But she went on to emphasize that "too many doctors and hospitals are still using the same record-keeping technology as Hippocrates."

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