A new study from the Commonwealth Fund found that only a minority of solo physicians have adopted extensive health information technology (HIT) capabilities.
The study, from the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, appears in a recent issue of Health Services Research. Researchers looked at data from the 2012 and 2009 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey of Primary Care Physicians. Over the course of those four years, the rate of adoption of electronic medical records (EMRs) by U.S. primary care physicians increased from 46 percent to 69 percent.
Over that period of time, the number of physicians able to send prescriptions electronically to pharmacies nearly doubled, from 34 percent to 66 percent. The ability to electronically prescribe increased from 40 percent to 64 percent and electronic ordering of lab tests grew from 38 percent to 54 percent.
However, the researchers found a gap between solo practitioners and physicians in an integrated system. Half of physicians in solo practices use EMRs, compared with 90 percent of those in practices of 20 or more physicians. The authors did say though that financial incentives could help smaller practices take up HIT. They also said the Office of the National Coordinator’s Regional Extension Centers (RECs) should be a focal point. Unfortunately, much of the ONC's grant funding for the RECs will end in April of this year.
"Although federal funds have led to a rapid expansion of health information technology, solo practices continue to lag in adoption. Technical assistance programs and financial incentives could help bring these physicians up to speed and enable them to provide high-quality care more efficiently," the authors wrote in the study.