Sunny outlook for small practice EMR adoption, meaningful use cloudy

The percentage of small physician practices that are planning to implement an EMR has grown in the last six months, according to a new vendor survey. But while the percentage of respondents who said the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was driving technology adoption more than doubled during this period, most are still unaware of requirements and nearly half say it will not impact their buying decision.

Cambridge, Mass.-based NaviNet, America's largest real-time healthcare communications network, conducted the survey via email earlier this month, targeting physician practices with 10 or fewer physicians. The survey generated 269 responses.

NaviNet compared its March 2010 survey with one conducted in August 2009 and found that EMR implementation was higher than expected among this segment. In 2009, only nine percent of respondents from provider practices with 10 or fewer physicians reported that they planned to implement EMRs within the next six months. Six months later in 2010, 12 percent are currently implementing.

EMR PLANS UP

The survey found that 17 percent of respondents say their offices will implement a new EMR by end of 2011. Of those, 68 percent will do so within the next 12 months. If EMR adoption follows previous growth rates, the industry can expect an even higher percentage of practices implementing EMRs than predicted, NaviNet projects.

The percentage of respondents with no plans to implement an EMR has decreased significantly, the survey found. In 2009, 31 percent reported they had no plans to implement EMR. In 2010, only 21 percent say the same.

ADOPTION DRIVERS

The NaviNet survey indicates that nearly twice as many provider offices' IT buying decisions are driven by concern about not being reimbursed versus the potential to earn incentives.

In 2010, when respondents were asked what external factors were influencing their offices' decisions about changes to technology, 53 percent said CMS mandates––a 14 percent spike over 2009.

Administrative concerns continue to be a pressing issue for providers, more so than clinical concerns or potential financial incentives. Nearly the same percentage of respondents in 2009 and 2010 cited the need to manage their practices' administrative overhead more effectively as a driver behind IT adoption––44 percent in 2009, 45 percent in 2010.

The survey results show that the opportunity to receive incentives from ARRA after meeting the CMS criteria for "meaningful use" of technology is becoming more important; in just six months the percentage of respondents that said ARRA was driving technology adoption more than doubled––12 percent in 2009 to 27 percent in 2010.

MEANINGFUL USE

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