Specialties vary in degree of EHR adoption

September 28, 2007

While practice setting and size are the strongest predictors of physicians' access to clinical information technology in their practices, significant variation in health IT adoption exists across specialties, according to a study by the Center for Studying Health System Change.

While practice setting and size are the strongest predictors of physicians' access to clinical information technology in their practices, significant variation in health IT adoption exists across specialties, according to a study by the Center for Studying Health System Change.

The study examined whether physicians had access to information technology for these activities: obtaining information about treatment alternatives or recommended guidelines; accessing patient notes, medication lists or problem lists; writing prescriptions; exchanging clinical data and images with other physicians; and exchanging clinical data and images with hospitals. Physicians who used computers for all five activities were considered to have an electronic medical record (EMR), which Medical Economics calls an electronic health record (EHR).

Among the study's key findings:

• Surgeons were less likely than medical specialists to have EHRs or use computers for the component activities.

• Psychiatrists were less likely and oncologists, more likely than other medical subspecialists to use computers for clinical activities.

• Ophthalmologists lagged behind general surgeons and other surgical subspecialists in most clinical IT activities. Ob/gyns were less likely than the comparison group to access notes and exchange data with physicians or hospitals.

• Among primary-care physicians, pediatricians and family physicians were less likely than internists to use computers access to patient notes.