Only 10% of Doctors Using Complete EHealth Records Systems, Surveys Find

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported preliminary data from two surveys conducted in 2009 and 2010 that show electronic health records are sill not being used by the vast majority of the country's physicians.

By Lucas Mearian
Tue, January 18, 2011

Computerworld — Combined data from two surveys of U.S. physicians taken over the past two years shows that while there has been a marked increase in the number of doctors using electronic health records (EHRs), the overall number of fully-functional systems remains in the high single digits to low double digits.

Preliminary estimates from the 2010 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS) , which is conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), showed that the percentage of physicians with EHRs that met the criteria of a basic EHR system by state ranged from 12.5% to 51.5%.

However, after excluding 27 states with unreliable estimates, the percentage of physicians having systems that met the criteria of a fully functional system across the United States ranged from 9.7% to 27.2%.

A comparison of 2009 and 2010 surveys showed the number of physicians with systems that met the criteria of a basic or a fully functional system increased by 14.2% and 46.4%, respectively.

The federal government has been using a carrot and stick-approach to prod physicians and hospitals into deploying EHRs that meet its "meaningful use" criteria.

Physicians may receive as much as $44,000 under Medicare and $63,750 under Medicaid, and hospitals may receive millions of dollars for implementation and meaningful use of certified EHRs under both Medicare and Medicaid.

Those that don't implement EHRs by 2015 will begin being penalized through cuts in Medicare payments. Phase I of its meaningful use criteria -- all 864 pages of it -- was released last year. Phases II and III are expected out by the end of this year and 2013, respectively.

Currently there are 23 measures proposed that hospitals must implement before the end of this year to gain the maximum amount of reimbursement under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Dr. Tom Handler, a radiologist and analyst for the research firm Gartner (IT), said one of the main barriers to adoption, "valid or not," are concerns about the productivity and usability of EHR systems. Many physicians also believe that the data collected by the government through EHR reporting criteria will be used to decrease Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, Handler said.

"Ultimately, what I hear doctors saying is, 'Let me get this straight. You want me to spend money to put in a system that will be harder to use and slow me down, so I will earn less money, and that the end result is that someone else makes more money," Handler said. "If you phrase it that way, it's not illogical to see why they don't want to do it."

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