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More older physicians embrace EHRs


Older physicians break down technology adoption barriers, study says

A boost in electronic health records (EHR) adoption comes from the least likely population of physicians.

Between 2010 and 2012, older physicians, solo practitioners, and community health centers have seen the highest increases of EHR adoption, according to the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey of EHRs conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

Emily Peters, vice president of marketing communications at Web-based EHR provider Practice Fusion, says that the age barriers related to technology adoption have been broken. “People think there are only younger doctors who are leading the trend, but we have an 80-year-old doctor who is doing great with his system,” Peters says. “We are starting to see a democratization of healthcare technology, which is making it more affordable... The healthcare technology market is becoming normalized just like the regular technology market, so there are a lot more options.”

The survey also found that physicians in rural areas are adopting EHRs at higher rates than those in urban areas. Overall, 72% of physicians have adopted some type of EHR and 40% have the capabilities for a basic EHR system. The survey points to federal financial assistance as a common denominator among the majority of physicians adopting EHR systems.

In 2009, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act earmarked $30 billion to assist practitioners with EHR adoption. In 2011, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) also began providing incentives for practitioners who used EHRs for meaningful use standards, including computerized ordering, e-prescribing, and provider reminders. Survey results show that the year after CMS incentives went into effect, adoption rates of EHR systems rose from 24.9% to 33.9%.

The meaningful use standards attached to EHR legislation have been the biggest motivator to practitioners to embrace healthcare technology, adds Trenor Williams, MD, chief executive officer of Clinovations, a healthcare consulting firm in Washington D.C. “Nothing else has had as big of an impact to healthcare technology. It has showed how big of a role technology plays in healthcare reform,” he says.

However, adopting EHR systems continue to be a challenge for smaller practices, according to the study. “Physicians struggle with finding value in these EHR systems from a clinical, financial and operational standpoint,” Williams says. “Somewhere in the healthcare community there will have to be value metrics, best practices to show what is really working.”

Peters says that practitioners still need more information on how EHRs will make their jobs easier in the long run. “At the root, it is a psychological hurdle. So many of the other hurdles are no longer there. (EHRs) are cheaper and easier to use. The remaining hurdle is a change in workflow. For small practices that are already facing so many other pressures, that can be a scary change,” he says.

The next steps will be to see how practices fair once more stages of EHR implementation are required. Williams worries that remote practices without on-staff IT professionals will have issues maintaining and continuing to implement new EHR systems in the future. “Implementation is the preamble to the work,” he says.

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