Survey: Nearly half of practices use EHRs

February 23, 2012

Nearly half of physician practices use electronic health record systems, but primary care physicians are not among the top or bottom users, according to survey results by a market research firm.

Nearly half of physician practices use electronic health record (EHR) systems, but primary care physicians are not among the top or bottom users, according to survey results by a market research firm.

SK&A’s January report found that 46% of physician practices used an EHR system, up from 40% in July 2011, according to results. The adoption rate was greater at larger offices. More than three-fourths of practices with 26 or more doctors used an EHR system compared with 37% of solo practices.

Adoption rates climbed in the 6-month period in nearly every category. The only exception was the percentage of hospital-owned practices that used an EHR system, which remained the same.

The report, “Physician Office Usage of Electronic Healthcare Records Software,” is based on a telephone survey of 240,281 U.S. medical offices. The firm maintains a database of 1.2 million clinical and business contacts at physicians’ offices.

In other findings:

Dialysis practices reported the largest EHR system usage rate at 68% in January 2012 and 65% in July 2011. For primary care specialties, usage rates for January were 50% for family practice, 43% for internal medicine, and 32% for general practice.

Rounding out the Top 5 usage rates by specialty in January 2012 were pathology, nuclear medicine, radiology, and genetic specialists, all of which had adoption rates above 60%.

Holistic medicine practices reported the lowest EHR usage rate at 19%. The other four specialties with the lowest usage were: plastic surgery (31%), psychiatric (29%), bariatrics (28%), and psychiatry (25%). (SK&A allows practices to be designated as “psychiatric” or “psychiatry.”)

The state with the highest EHR usage rate was Minnesota in January 2012 (65%) and in July 2011 (62%). Usage there also was the highest in the July 2011 study. The other Top 5 states in January were Utah (63%), North Dakota (60%), Oregon (57%), and South Dakota (57%).

The lowest EHR usage states were California (40%), New York (40%), Maryland (40%), Louisiana (36%), and New Jersey (35%).

In other EHR-related news, increased health information technology (HIT) adoption and usage were what U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen G. Sebelius boasted about during a February 17 speech at Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley Health Science Institute in Kansas City, Missouri.

Sebelius reported the results of an American Hospital Association survey that showed the percentage of U.S. hospitals that had adopted EHR systems has more than doubled to 35% in 2011 from 16% in 2009.  She announced also that nearly 2,000 hospitals and more than 41,000 doctors have received $3.1 billion in incentive payments for attesting to meaningful use of EHRs.

“[H]IT is the foundation for a truly 21st century health system where we pay for the right care, not just more care,” Sebelius said in a statement.

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