Results for what is likely the most comprehensive survey to date of physician adoption of electronic health-record systems finding that only 17% of physicians in ambulatory care have access to an EHR signal tough times ahead, the authors said.
Given that 83% of ambulatory-care physicians dont have an EHR, and better than three-fourths of the physicians who do have an EHR are using a system with limited functionality, the U.S. healthcare system faces major challenges in taking full advantage of EHRs to realize its health goals, according to an executive summary of the published survey released on the New England Journal of Medicines Web site last week.
And the researchers noted that all EHR systems are not equal, meaning the 17% number might be an optimistic tally. Just 4% of physicians in ambulatory care have available a fully functional EHR system equipped with 16 key capabilities, including patient-safety features such as the ability to fire off drug-drug and drug-allergy alerts. Anticipating such a low adoption rate for high-end systems, researchers graded on a curve, giving partial credit to physicians who have something less than a top-tier EHR system in their offices. Using that standard, 13% of physicians surveyed have only basic EHRs with a minimum set of six functions.
The survey provides a definitive base line to future work to measure progress, said one of the lead authors of the report, David Blumenthal, a physician and the director of the Institute for Health Policy, at a news conference June 18. A copy of the full report should be released July 2.
The survey was conducted between September 2007 and March 2008 by the Institute for Health Policy at 902-bed Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston; the Harvard School of Public Health; George Washington University; and RTI International, working under a contract with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS and grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
This is the best data that there has ever been on the adoption of electronic health records by physicians, said William Jessee, the physician president and chief executive officer of the Medical Group Management Association, Englewood, Colo.
The surveyors also looked into whether physicians who use EHRs are satisfied with them and, generally speaking, they are.
The researchers relied on a randomized sample of U.S. physicians drawn from an American Medical Association database.