Health IT implementation is significantly higher in large physician practices and is growing in community clinics.

Nicole Lewis, Contributor

May 16, 2011

3 Min Read

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Fifty-five percent of California's primary care physicians use an electronic health record (EHR) in their practice, a report from the California Healthcare Foundation has revealed.

The report relied on information from 65,388 physician practices to gauge the adoption and use of health information technology (HIT) at California's health delivery organizations.

Across all physician practices, 48% have implemented an EHR, but a closer examination of the numbers show that the technology is used far more among larger practices. The statistics reveal that:

-- 80% of practices with more than 51 doctors have implemented an EHR;

-- 64% of practices with six to 50 doctors have implemented an EHR;

-- 39% of practices with two to five doctors have implemented an EHR; and

-- 20% of solo practices have implemented an EHR.

Smaller physician practices also have a lower level of health IT adoption in other areas. For example, the study found that electronic ordering systems for lab, radiology, and diagnostic tests are implemented in 54% of physician practices. But, once again, implementation varies widely depending on the size of the practice; only 30% of solo practices use electronic ordering systems, compared to 88% of practices with 51 or more physicians.

One encouraging sign the study highlighted was the growth in EHR adoption at community clinics over the last six years.

In 2005, only 3% of clinics reported having an EHR. In the latest report, 47% indicated that they have implemented an EHR system and an additional 41% have begun the process of evaluating vendors, contracting, or scheduling an installation.

"The growth of HIT use among physicians and community clinics in particular is a positive trend that ideally will accelerate with the current influx of federal funding," the report said. "This financial support is a critical factor in transitioning the California healthcare system from the early stages of HIT adoption to a phase in which technology is effectively and routinely leveraged to create a safer and more efficient care delivery system."

At California hospitals the report showed that:

-- lab reporting is the most commonly implemented EHR function, with nearly 90% of hospitals reporting it is fully implemented in at least one unit;

-- 40% of hospitals have a computerized order entry system currently installed or are in the process of installing one;

-- 36% of hospitals have implemented a computerized order entry system for medications in at least one unit;

-- nearly 90% of hospitals have installed decision support systems or are in the process of implementing one; and

-- clinical data repositories are prevalent in California hospitals; 78% of hospitals report current installations.

The report also revealed that 70% of federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) do not have an EHR system in place, and while some FQHCs are using electronic prescribing functions, only 18% are transmitting prescriptions electronically.

The report is the second comprehensive overview of HIT adoption and use in California and relied on seven independent sources to collect the data between 2008 and 2011. The first report was published in 2008.

The Healthcare IT Leadership Forum is a day-long venue where senior IT leaders in healthcare come together to discuss how they're using technology to improve clinical care. Find out more.

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