Older, busier docs more likely to use novel EHR functionality

By Molly Merrill
09:27 AM

Contrary to popular belief, a new study has found that older physicians who are clinically busier and see more complex patients are more likely to use new EHR functionality than younger clinicians.

The findings were determined by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), who analyzed the intervention arm of a randomized trial of new EHR-based tobacco treatment functionality. The trial included 207 clinicians and the functionality was used by 50 percent, or 103 clinicians.

Of the clinicians who had access to the functionality, staff physicians were more likely than trainees to use it, clinicians who graduated more than 10 years previously were more likely to use it compared to those who graduated less than 10 years previously, and clinicians who had higher patient volumes were more likely to use the functionality compared to those with smaller volume.

"It is important to understand the characteristics of clinicians who are either more or less likely to use newer EHR functionality," said Jeffrey Linder, MD, lead author of the paper and a primary care physician-researcher at BWH. "This understanding could aid developers and health system leaders in more efficiently targeting design and implementation efforts."

Researchers also found that clinicians who saw patients with a high rate of documented health issues were more likely to use the functionality when compared to clinicians whose patients had less complex health problems.

"We were surprised to discover that the older physicians were likely to adopt and use new technology in the EHR," said Linder. "Avoiding assumptions about who will use new functionality will be important in ensuring an increase the use of these new functionalities and will contribute to the quality gains promised by the use of EHRs."

The study wass published online in advance of print in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association and was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.