Small practices adopting EHRs faster than ever

March 21, 2012

Small medical offices with one or two physicians in the practice are the fastest-growing segment for adoption of Electronic Health Records software, according to the latest results of an ongoing study by SK&A.

Medical offices with one or two physicians are the fastest-growing segment for the adoption of electronic health record (EHR) software, according to the latest results of an ongoing study by SK&A, a provider of healthcare information solutions and research.

SK&A’s recently updated “Physician Office Usage of Electronic Health Records Software” report reveals that for the first time, solo and small practices are outpacing larger groups in EHR adoption. For the second half of 2011, the adoption rate for single-doctor offices of all specialties jumped to 37% from 31%, whereas the adoption rate for offices with six to 10 doctors increased to 65% from 63%.

Solo to 10-physician family medicine practices were among the fastest adopters in the latest report. In the latest survey, half of solo family physicians reported having an EHR system, compared with 41% in the previous survey. For two- to four-physician family medicine practices, 64% reported having a system this time, compared with 53% last time. Five- to 10-physician practices saw EHR adoption grow to 69% in the latest survey, compared with 57% in the previous survey.

“The most striking thing we found is that small practices switch their attitude when they get [the EHR],” says Jon Jenett, chief executive officer of Advanced Data Management, a research affiliate of SK&A. “They’re the ones who are most concerned about the technology getting between them and the patient, but once they get it, they’re actually the most enthusiastic.”

Government financial incentives tied to meaningful use of EHRs is driving adoption among small practices, Jenett says. Also motivating practices: Incentives from hospitals, which often will agree to subsidize a portion of the EHR fees and equipment and provide tech support.

“Hospitals are looking at 45 practices that admit to their hospital; they really don’t want them using 45 different EHRs,” Jenett says.

SK&A’s report is based on an ongoing telephone survey of more than 240,000 U.S. medical sites. The report showed an overall EHR adoption rate of 46%, up 5% from the same time the previous year.

Other trends:

Offices with three to five practicing physicians had 55% adoption, whereas offices with 26-plus practicing physicians had 77% adoption.

Offices with one to three exam rooms had 35% adoption, whereas offices with 11-plus exam rooms had 67% adoption.

Offices with average daily patient volumes of one to 50 patients had 41% adoption, whereas offices with 101-plus patients had 68% adoption.

Physician specialties with the highest adoption rates are dialysis (68%), pathology (66%), nuclear medicine (64%), and radiology (63%).

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