41% of office-based doctors plan to achieve meaningful use

February 24, 2011

Forty-one percent of office-based physicians plan to achieve meaningful use of electronic health records (EHRs) and apply for incentive payments from the government, according to a survey by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and discussed by David Blumental, MD, MPP, national coordinator for health information technology (HIT), in a posting on his blog.

Forty-one percent of office-based physicians plan to achieve meaningful use of electronic health records (EHRs) and apply for incentive payments from the government, according to a survey by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and discussed by David Blumental, MD, MPP, national coordinator for health information technology (HIT), in a posting on his blog.

Blumenthal says the survey numbers represent a reversal of the low interest in EHR adoption in previous years. “For years, we have known that EHRs would improve care for patients and bring about greater cost effectiveness in our health sector, yet adoption rates by healthcare providers remained low,” he says. “In 2009, Congress and the president authorized major new federal support for EHR adoption and use, and in combination with medical professional and hospital leadership. I believe we are seeing the tide turn toward widespread and accelerating adoption and use of HIT.”

The survey also found that 32.4% of office-based physicians expect to enroll during Stage 1 of the federal incentive programs. Fourteen percent of respondents said they were not planning to apply for meaningful use incentives.

Additional survey data from NCHS show that significantly increasing numbers of primary care physicians already have adopted a basic EHR, increasing by 50% from 19.8% of primary care physicians in 2008 to 29.6% in 2010. Most physicians would need to further upgrade their EHR systems or their use of the systems to qualify for meaningful use incentive payments.

Blumenthal says that the meaningful use process has contributed to the increased willingness of providers to adopt EHR systems, especially because the process guides providers through staged objectives for the use of EHRs, and because providers can now be assured that complete EHRs and EHR modules certified under ONC criteria by ONC-authorized testing and certification bodies can be relied on to support the meaningful use objectives.

He also points to technical support programs created under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act that offer support to providers as they switch from paper records to EHR systems, In particular, 62 regional extension centers (RECs) across the country will offer customized assistance, especially for smaller-practice primary care providers and for small hospitals and clinics.