Docs not surprised at EHR survey results

By John Andrews
03:54 PM

In December, the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics published the preliminary results of its National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey of physicians, with the key finding being that 50.7 percent of respondents use some type of electronic health record. The figure shows gradual growth in EHR adoption since 2009, when just a little more than 48 percent of physicians reported using electronic health records in some capacity.

Manuel Lowenhaupt, MD, technology consultant with Chicago-based Accenture, credits hospital systems for boosting physician involvement with EHRs.

“It goes to the support of employed and contracted doctors by health systems – Minnesota is a good example of this,” he said. “No question (American Reinvestment and Recovery Act) dollars are a major driver, but the fact that the majority of physicians consider themselves employees is a critical component.”

Renee Sharp agrees that hospitals are the primary driver of EHR growth in the physician sector.

“Hospital-owned physician groups implement early,” said Sharp, senior consulting manager for Chadds Ford, Pa.-based IMA Consulting. “When the facility converts to an EHR, the physician base is comfortable with the hospital system. Hospitalists and practices can also share the health record for continuity of care.”

The only surprise for Scott Weingarten, MD, is “that the number is a little higher than I would have guessed.” Yet the CEO of Los Angeles-based Zynx Healthcare said he has seen “widespread enthusiasm” for EHRs among his clients and colleagues.

“They believe it is right for their patients,” he said.

Graham Hughes, MD, chief medical information officer of emerging solutions at Waukesha, Wis.-based GE Healthcare, calls the survey finding “encouraging.” “It is indicative of where we are going to be” in the next decade, he said

“These data confirm what we are seeing in the marketplace – that stimulus funding is driving and will continue to drive adoption,” he said. “We believe this uptick in digital health records is welcome.”

Even with the progress to date, however, the physician community still has a “steep hill to climb” when it comes to EHR adoption, said Matt Seefeld, CEO of Atlanta-based consulting firm Interpoint Partners.

“It really comes down to the extent to which physicians are using EHRs,” he said. “They are still a long way from full adoption.”