Docs increase their use of "EHR components"

By Molly Merrill
10:24 AM

Electronic healthcare record adoption has increased by 3.2 percent in physician offices since February 2009, according to a new survey.

The survey, released by research firm SK&A, A Cegedim Company, showed a 36.1 EHR adoption rate in U.S. medical offices compared to 32.9 percent last year at the same time. The survey was based on completed telephone surveys with 180,000 U.S. physician offices.

"The 'news' here is that docs are starting to use components of EHR technology more commonly, but not necessarily [complete] EHRs from a single vendor," said David Kibbe, MD, senior adviser, American Academy of Family Physicians.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control defines a complete EHR as one that contains four basic functions: computerized orders for prescriptions, computerized orders for tests, reporting of test results, and physician notes.

SK&A officials said its research supports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics' recent findings, which estimate that 43.9 percent of doctors are using full or partial EHR systems.

Both studies conclude that significantly more than half of physicians still do not have EHR systems in place.
"Our definition used in the study is any software or technology used in the medical office by the physician for electronic notes, electronic prescribing, and viewing lab results and other imaging," said Jack Schember, vice president of marketing for SK&A. "We did not differentiate between basic and fully functional systems. Also, our definition excludes electronic billing systems," he said.
Given that definition, Kibbe viewed the increase as a "little on the conservative side."

"Over the past 12 months doctors use of components of EHR technology has risen fairly quickly. I think physicians are growing their use of [EHR] components at seven to 10 percent per year. We are seeing that in certain markets where for example e-prescribing is being pushed for by health plans," said Kibbe.

He predicts that when the iPad hits the marks that rate could jump even higher.

"I think it is exciting," said Kibbe. "We are at the beginning of a business cycle of EHR technology that is going to grow options, alternatives and opportunities … EHR technology will get better as more people use it," he said.

Other trends from SK&A's study show:

Physicians primarily use EHR systems for electronic notes (28.3 percent), as opposed to electronic labs/x-rays and e-prescribing.

  • EHR adoption rates increase as the number of physicians, number of exam rooms and daily patient volume rise.
  • EHR adoption is more prevalent in hospital-or health system-owned sites. Hospital-owned and health-system-owned sites have adoption rates of 44.1 percent and 50.2 percent, respectively. On the contrary, non-hospital-owned and non-health-system-owned sites have adoption rates of 34.4 percent and 34.2 percent, respectively.
  • The specialty areas with the highest adoption rates include dialysis, critical care medicine and radiology. Those specialties with the lowest adoption rates include allergy/immunology, general surgery and general practice.

SK&A's third phase of the study, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2010, will identify EHR purchasing decision makers, plans to implement new software or upgrade existing software, planned expenditures, and primary and secondary buying factors.