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Cost containment not achieved with EHRs: survey


By Joseph Conn
Posted: October 29, 2009 - 11:00 am ET
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If anyone in Congress, the Obama administration or the public thinks that adoption of health information technology will quickly yield improved care or reduce costs, they'd be wrong, according to the results of a recent survey of medical group practices, including many with considerable experience using electronic health-record systems.

Even large physician group practices with years of experience using their EHRs still have a long way to go to fully leverage the systems for improvement of medical care and cost containment, according to a recent survey of EHR use by the American Medical Group Association (registration required).

Results were drawn from 263 leaders of 201 organizations that responded to the survey conducted during the second quarter of this year. Of the respondents, two-thirds were from physician groups composed of 101 or more physicians and midlevel providers, and 88% were from groups of 51 or more providers. Eight out of 10 organizations participating in the survey were AMGA members.

Highlights of survey results include:

  • 63% of organizations participating have had their systems up and running for two or more years.


  • One-quarter of them have had their systems for more than five years.


  • Only slightly more than half (51%) were using their systems to drive clinical guidelines or protocols.


  • Just 27% of the groups were using their EHRs to generate longitudinal views of patients and populations and only one in four was analyzing the EMR data to find ways to improve clinical cost effectiveness.
According to study authors, maxing out an EHR takes time, effort and planning.

“Capturing the potential benefits from an EHR is an ongoing effort and even the most successful users have captured only a part of their expected and desired benefits. These benefits only result after workflow redesign, adjustments to the division of labor/staff utilization, and expanding utilization of the system cap abilities,” according to the study authors.

“Patience and persistence are among the most critical success factors,” the authors said. “The groups capturing the most benefits from their EHR systems are those who introduce functionality in stages, allow time for the physicians and staff to develop proficiency in subsets of capabilities at a pace they are able to absorb, and plan carefully for the rollout/extension of system functionality. Groups with the greatest/longest experience with the systems (e.g., more than five years) are also those with the greatest success in capturing benefits and satisfaction with their EHR systems.”

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