WASHINGTON – Findings released last month from a first-ever comprehensive study on the use of electronic health records in the United States revealed that 24.9 percent of physicians use some form of loosely defined electronic health record systems. However, fewer than 10 percent employ what researchers define as “a system most likely to benefit patient care.”
The 81-page report, “Health Information Technology in the United States: The Information Base for Progress,” also showed that only 5 percent of hospitals use computerized physician order entry systems.
“These findings come as no surprise,” said Karen Bell, MD, director of the Office of Health IT Adoption, Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at the Department of Health and Human Services. “We’ve known this for a long time.”
Bell suggested it is unlikely the nation will achieve President Bush’s goal of electronic medical records for most Americans by 2014.
“The study does, however, set up an important baseline for assessing progress and a standard by which to measure healthcare IT implementation in future studies,” Bell said. In addition, major changes in the industry over the next several years could tip the rate of implementation closer to the 2014 goal, she noted.
Ashish Jha, MD, a researcher on the project and assistant professor at Harvard School of Public Health, said hospitals cite two main reasons for not adopting EHR systems: expense and disruption to care during implementation.
Aside from costs, the study revealed several additional barriers to EHR adoption, including fear of legal burdens, technical concerns about use and the fear that systems could become obsolete too quickly through vendor mergers or technology upgrades.