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Health Information Technology: Few physicians have adopted EHR, study finds


Only 4% of physicians responding to a recent survey reported having an extensive, fully functional EHR.

This material originally appeared in the June 20, 2008, issue of Health LawyersWeekly, a publication of the AmericanHealth Lawyers Association.

Only 4% of 2,758 physicians responding to a recent survey reported having an extensive, fully functional electronic health records (EHR) system, and 13% reported having a basic system, according to a study published June 18 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Among the 83% of respondents who did not have EHR, 16% reported that their practice had purchased but not yet implemented such a system at the time of the survey.

The study, Electronic Health Records in Ambulatory Care-A National Survey of Physicians, was supported by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

According to the survey, physicians who were younger, worked in large or primary care practices, worked in hospitals or medical centers, and lived in the western region of the United States were more likely to use EHR.

Of the 4% of physicians with fully functional EHR systems, most physicians reported the system had a positive effect on the quality of clinical decisions (82%), communication with other providers (92%) and patients (72%), prescription refills (95%), timely access to medical records (97%), and avoidance of medication errors (86%).

In addition, the survey found most physicians with fully functional systems reported averting a known drug allergic reaction (80%) or a potentially dangerous drug interaction (71%), being alerted to a critical laboratory value (90%), ordering a critical laboratory test (68%), and providing preventive care (69%). Physicians with basic systems reported having the same effects but less commonly than those with fully functional systems, the article said.

The survey also found that 93% of physicians with fully functional systems and 88% with basic systems reported being satisfied with their EHR systems.

Of the survey respondents that did not adopt EHR, the most commonly cited barriers to adoption were capital costs (66%), not finding a system that met their needs (54%), uncertainty about their return on the investment (50%), and concern that a system would become obsolete (44%).

According to the study, its findings "suggests that the U.S. health care system faces major challenges in taking full advantage of electronic health records to realize its health care goals."

In addition, improving the usability of electronic health records may be critical to the continued successful diffusion of the technology, the study said.

The study also warned that “the cost of achieving widespread adoption of electronic health records in the United States could be high, probably in the tens or hundreds of billions of dollars.”

Read the study.

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