A summary report on a comprehensive survey of physician adoption of electronic health-record systems finds that after four years of federal ballyhoo of health information technology, more than eight out of 10 physicians practicing in the ambulatory-care environment still have no access to an EHR of any kind.
Just 4% of physicians in ambulatory care have access to a top-end EHR system with patient-safety features such as drug-drug and drug-allergy alerts and fully electronic prescribing.
Grading on a curve by giving partial credit to physicians who have something less than the best EHR system in their offices, researchers concluded the adoption rate for basic EHRs with a minimum set of functions is 13%.
Given the low current availability of EHRs, the U.S. healthcare system faces major challenges in taking full advantage of EHRs to realize its health goals, according to a report on the survey conducted between September 2007 and March, and published in the June 19 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. A copy of the full report should be released next month.
The report, funded jointly by HHS and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, was not all gloom and doom. The surveyors, David Blumenthal, M.D., and researchers from 902-bed Massachusetts General, Boston, also looked into whether physicians who use EHRs are satisfied with them and, generally speaking, they are. And, of the barriers to faster EHR adoption that loomed largest to both users and non-userscost was cited by both as the most significant hurdlethe researchers noted that other Western nations have adopted strategies of cost sharing that have boosted EHR adoption into the 90% range. The researchers recommended policy leaders look to those other countries for guidance in developing a U.S. adoption incentive program. -- by Joseph Conn