Healthcare Business News

Doc-office use of basic EHRs hits nearly 40%, survey finds

By Joseph Conn
Posted: December 6, 2012 - 12:01 am ET

Nearly 4 in 10 office-based physicians are now using an electronic health-record system with a basic level of functions, according to the latest estimates from an annual federal survey, up from about 1 in 3 a year ago.

The National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has placed basic EHR adoption for office-based physicians—excluding anesthesiologist, pathologists and radiologists—in 2012 at 39.6%. That's an increase from the 33.9% adoption rate in last year's survey and not quite twice as high as the 21.8% EHR adoption rate found by the survey in 2009, when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed, creating federal programs under Medicare and Medicaid to boost EHR adoption and their meaningful use.

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At 70.6%, Wisconsin had the highest percentage of physicians using basic EHRs, followed by Minnesota, 66.7%; North Dakota, 63.2%; and Massachusetts, 61.8%. Among the states, Louisiana, at 25%, had the lowest adoption rate of basic EHRs with New Jersey, 26.9%, and Kentucky, 27.2%, just ahead of it. The District of Columbia trailed them all, however, at 22.4%.

A basic system was defined as an EHR that could be used for all of the following: record a patient history, patient demographics, problem lists, clinical notes, medications and allergies; write prescriptions; and view lab and imaging results, according to the latest NCHS data brief (PDF).

Of physicians surveyed, 2 in 3 indicated they either intended to—or already had applied for—either the Medicare or Medicaid incentives under the EHR incentive payment program.

Also in the survey report were even higher EHR adoption rates, but without qualification of what kind of EHR was being measured. According to the NCHS, when asked if they use any EHR system—and not asking them about specific system functionality—71.8% of physicians surveyed reported they did, up from 57% in the 2011 survey. In addition, according to the NCHS, 23.5% of office-based physicians reported having an EHR that meets an even more comprehensive feature set to qualify under NCHS definition as a “fully functional” EHR, up from 16.8% for a fully functional EHR in the 2011 survey.

The recently released estimates are based on a sample of 10,302 physicians who were initially mailed the survey, and then were given follow-up phone calls if they did not reply to the initial mailing. The unweighted response rate was 67%, according to the NCHS.

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