One objective of the 2009 Health Information for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act is to encourage more physicians and hospitals to adopt electronic health record (EHR) systems. Physicians and hospitals that effectively use electronic health records will play an important role in preventing medical errors, reducing costs, and providing higher-quality and evidence-based care.

To help modernize U.S. health information technology systems, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began in 2011 to give payment incentives to physicians, hospitals, and other providers if they could demonstrate “meaningful use” of electronic health records. To hospitals, the incentives are $2 million plus an additional payment based on the number of discharges each year. To physicians, the incentives are worth up to $44,000.

55 Percent of Physicians Use EHR
How many providers have adopted electronic health records? A recent brief from the National Center for Health Statistics studies the question for physicians and breaks down adoption rates in a variety of categories.

Researchers found that 55 percent of office-based physician practices in 2011 had adopted electronic health records. Physicians younger than 50 years old were more likely to adopt them, as were practices with 11 or more physicians and practices owned by community or academic health centers. While only 29 percent of solo practitioners had done so, 100 percent of practices owned by health maintenance organizations (HMOs) had adopted electronic health records.

Roughly three quarters of physicians who use electronic health records did so in a way that meets federal meaningful use guidelines, which made them eligible for incentive payments from Medicare or Medicaid. Most EHR adopters had stand-alone as opposed to web-based systems, offering faster response times but demanding a higher initial investment.

Other key findings included:

  • 85 percent of physicians adopting an EHR system were somewhat (47 percent) or very (38 percent) satisfied with their system.
  • Nearly 75 percent of adopters reported that EHR system use resulted in enhanced patient care.
  • Nearly 50 percent of non-adopters plan to purchase or use an already purchased EHR system within the next year.

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Kip Piper is a Medicare, Medicaid, and health reform consultant, speaker, and author.  He advises health plans, health systems, states, drug and device manufacturers, and investment firms throughout the U.S.  For more, visit KipPiper.com.  Follow on Twitter at @KipPiper and connect with Kip on LinkedIn.