More family physicians adopt EHRs

July 27, 2007

Thirty-seven percent of family physicians who belong to the AAFP have fully implemented an EHR, and another 13 percent are in the process of implementing a system, according to a recent AAFP survey.

Thirty-seven percent of family physicians who belong to the AAFP have fully implemented an EHR, and another 13 percent are in the process of implementing a system, according to a recent AAFP survey. In comparison, about 30 percent of AAFP survey respondents said they had an EHR in 2005, and only 10-15 percent had one in 2003.

The 2007 figures are substantially higher than adoption numbers in surveys of the total physician universe. For example, a 2006 study commissioned by the government found that 24 percent of physicians had EHRs of some kind, and that 10 percent had EHRs with features such as electronic prescribing and the ability to order tests and receive results. A recent study by the Millennium Research Group, a health technology consulting firm, found that nearly 18 percent of physicians had an EHR in 2006.

At the small-practice level, the picture looks bleaker. Vendor executives interviewed by InfoTech Bulletin estimate that EHR penetration in practices of three or fewer doctors is 5-10 percent. Mark Anderson, a health IT consultant whose firm does an EHR vendor survey each year, says that the adoption rate in small practices is 6.7 percent.

FP Steven Waldren, director of the AAFP's Center for Health Information Technology, says that primary-care doctors, including family physicians, have adopted EHRs more quickly than specialists. And, since FPs constitute only 8 percent of the physician workforce, he notes, their growing use of EHRs doesn't have a great impact on the overall adoption rate. However, about the same percentages of family physicians and all physicians are buying advanced systems with quality improvement features, says Waldren.

Waldren doesn't dispute the claim that fewer than 10 percent of physicians in small practices have EHRs. Only about 25 percent of family physicians are in solo or two-doctor practices, however, and about 30 percent of family docs are employed by hospital systems. Physicians in health care systems and large groups are significantly more likely to have EHRs than those in small, independent practices.

According to the 2007 AAFP survey, the physicians who were most likely to have a fully implemented EHR practiced in an urban area, had practiced for seven or fewer years, did not own their practices, and worked in practices with at least two other physicians.

x