Fridsma highlights doubling of digital docs

By Bernie Monegain
10:30 AM

The number of physicians using electronic health records has doubled over the past two years, Doug Fridsma, MD, told an audience at AHIMA's ICD-10 Summit Monday.

“We are making real progress on EHR adoption and we are developing a workforce that is beginning to be trained to support this progress,” said Fridsma, director of the Office of Standards and Interoperability, part of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).
The number of primary care physicians using EHRs has doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent in two years, according to ONC statistics. Also since 2009, the number of hospitals adopting the technology has more than doubled from 16 percent to 35 percent, Fridsma said. More than 50 percent of doctors are indicating they intend to take advantage of EHRs to get meaningful use incentives.
At the same time, ONC is working with a community of stakeholders to create a portfolio of standards and specifications to address different needs and challenges through the Standards & Interoperability Framework, Fridsma said.
As he sees it, developing the foundation of interoperable health information exchange will be an “evolving journey.”

“We have to take an incremental approach and ask ourselves as each piece is developed: ‘Is this solution the best we have so far? Is it the logical next step in an incremental approach?’ Fridsma said, "and not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. When it comes to interoperability, one size will not fit all.”
Still, benefits are already becoming apparent. Fridsma pointed to the providers participating in the Nationwide Health Information Network Exchange, a group of federal agencies and private sector organizations that have implemented the portfolio of standards, service and policies that allow information to be exchanged securely over the Internet, are achieving measurable success. 

For example, the Social Security Administration is able to process disability claims 45 percent faster when querying for and receiving medical records through the exchange. Developing ways to exchange information electronically is critical, because as of now, even with EHR use, most doctors and health systems still rely on printers and faxes to exchange patient health information.
Fridsma thanked AHIMA for its leadership and support of global standards development efforts in creating standards for the international community.
“AHIMA is leading the way both in the U.S. and internationally as standards are developed to make health information exchange possible,” said AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon. “Our members are on the forefront of implementing these changes that will lead to better health information and ultimately better patient care.”

[See also: The 7 Deadly Sins of EMR implementation]