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ONC: Physician EHR Adoption Continues to Grow

September 21, 2015
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Physician adoption of electronic health record (EHR) systems has increased substantially over the last decade, even among physicians not participating in EHR Incentive Programs, according to a September data brief from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).

The data revealed that more than 8 in 10 physicians have adopted an EHR; of those, almost three-quarters have adopted a certified EHR, while 51 percent of physicians were using all basic EHR functionalities. However, only 6 in 10 physicians electronically viewed imaging results. The computerized function reported by the most physicians was the ability to record patient demographic information (86 percent).

What’s more, regardless of if they are participating in the EHR Incentive Program, the majority of physicians are using certified EHR. The data found that almost two-thirds of physicians applied, or planned to apply, to the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, while 38 percent of physicians will not apply, or were uncertain of plans to apply. Among physicians who stated they would not apply, or were uncertain about applying, 47 percent had adopted a certified EHR.

Primary care physicians reported the highest rates of adoption for any EHR, certified or basic. They also reported having the highest rate of adoption of certified EHRs, at 79 percent. Meanwhile, solo practitioners had the lowest rates of adoption for any EHR, certified or basic; 64 percent reported using any EHR; 55 percent reported using a certified EHR; and less than a third reported using all basic EHR functionalities.

Further, physicians in community health centers reported the highest adoption rate for any EHR, but had lower rates for certified and basic EHRs. Findings of disparities in adoption among physicians located in solo and small group practices and physician- and group-owned practices, as well as among non-primary care specialties are consistent with prior literature, ONC said. In addition, large differences in basic EHR adoption were observed among solo and small group practice physicians, and within physician and group-owned practices and community health centers. These findings may be related to the fact that the basic EHR definition includes functionalities that apply primarily to certain physician specialties and may not be broadly applicable across the care continuum, the agency concluded.

In contrast, disparities in certified EHR use were less prevalent among office-based physicians. Physician adoption of certified EHRs was within 10 percentage points of overall EHR adoption, with the exception of physicians in practices of more than 10 physicians and in community health centers, ONC found.

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