Massachusetts bullish on health IT

Survey shows providers adopting; consumers supporting.
By Bernie Monegain
08:40 AM

Massachusetts healthcare providers are adopting health information technology and health data exchange and drawing consumer support for going digital, according to a new study from Massachusetts eHealth Institute.

[See also: MU licensing regs have Mass docs worried.]

The study found that 96 percent of primary care practices and nearly 80 percent of all healthcare organizations in Massachusetts report they are using electronic health record systems. Fifty percent of consumers indicated they have used health IT to directly communicate with their healthcare provider, review test results, renew prescriptions or schedule appointments.

[See also: Mass HIway begins Phase 2 exchange.]

Of the consumers surveyed, 87 percent were positive about sharing health data over the Mass HIway, the Commonwealth's statewide HIE, when they learned patient consent is required to share data over that system. Eighty-four percent said they would support the exchange via the HIway knowing information would be sent through secure connections and that providers are responsible for security of the information.

Sixty-nine percent expressed concern about the privacy and security of the information.

"Accelerating adoption of health information technology is important for Massachusetts as a model for the country," said Pamela Goldberg, CEO of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, in a news release. "Health IT impacts healthcare delivery, coordination and costs. This study shows that the Commonwealth has made significant progress with EHR and HIE adoption, and we look forward to the continuing work ahead."

The survey data are included in the 2014 MeHI Provider and Consumer Health IT Research Study, released July 17 at an event at the Massachusetts State House.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Adoption of health IT among Massachusetts primary care and specialty care providers is progressing well, as these groups reporting a more than 90 percent EHR adoption rate;
  • Health information exchange is on the radar of a clear majority of providers, with 26 percent reporting they are participating in HIE and 68 percent of those not currently connected say they plan to participate in HIE. Survey respondents indicated additional clarity and support for these providers is required;
  • Focus is needed on increasing EHR adoption in other sectors, particularly behavioral health and long-term and post-acute care organizations, which show a lower adoption rate of 55 percent;
  • Consumers are excited about healthcare technology and have an overwhelmingly positive attitude toward health IT adoption and use, with 78 percent saying that the move from paper to electronic health records will improve care.

"The conclusions drawn in the research will help MeHI assist policymakers and healthcare sector leaders and drive our action agenda," Laurance Stuntz, director of MEHI, in a statement. "We will be working to support the advancement of health IT in healthcare sectors such as behavioral health and long-term and post-acute care, as well as supporting further innovation in the sector."

MeHI commissioned the survey research, which was overseen by industry research form Market Decisions. Market Decisions conducted a combination of telephone-based and digital surveys of three different target populations in the Massachusetts healthcare system, including 507 managers of healthcare practices; 308 individual healthcare providers; and 807 individual consumers in six geographic regions of the state.

Access the full report here.