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Study: In the Bay State, Enthusiasm High for HIT

July 17, 2014
by Gabriel Perna
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Massachusetts is a growing hub of healthcare IT adoption, according to a new study released by the Massachusetts eHealth Institute at MassTech (MeHI).

For the research report, conducted by Market Decisions LLC, a health industry research firm, authors surveyed 507 managers of healthcare practices, 308 individual healthcare providers, and 807 individual consumers. The findings showed that across the board there is increased adoption and excitement surrounding health information technology within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

On the provider side, 90 percent of primary care and specialty care providers have adopted an electronic health record (EHR). Specifically, 96 percent of primary care practices and nearly 80 percent of all healthcare organizations in Massachusetts are using an EHR. A few sectors that didn’t fare as well were behavioral health and long-term care providers as well as post-care acute organizations, which had lower rates of adoption at around 55 percent.

In terms of health information exchange (HIE), 26 percent of providers are participating in one and 68 percent who aren’t say they would like to be. Many even put a timestamp on joining an HIE, saying it will be done within two years.

On the consumer side, there is a lot of usage, anticipation, and excitement of health IT as well. Fifty percent of consumers say they have used health IT to directly communicate with their healthcare provider, review test results, renew prescriptions or schedule appointments. Eighty-seven percent were positive about sharing health data through the statewide HIE. Privacy and security is a concern, however, with 69 percent indicating this. Furthermore, 78 percent of consumer respondents said that the move from paper to electronic health records will improve care.

“As our health care system changes and evolves, any reforms we make to our system must make technology a priority,” Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) said in an event at the Massachusetts State House that announced the findings of the survey. “Health information technologies have significant potential to drive down health care costs, resulting in savings for the entire Commonwealth. This report by MeHI points to the progress we have made in implementing technologies like electronic health records and the Health Information Exchange as well as facilitates an important discussion on how we can continue our success in the future.”

Despite the enthusiasm, there is room for improvement on all sides, note the study’s authors. Not only with provider-to-provider communication, but provider-to-patient as well. Indeed, even those using EHRs say that most information sharing has been with electronic prescriptions and public health reporting. Interoperability is a huge issue reported in the findings of the survey.

One thing that was noted in the report that could improve information flow are state-level model organizational policies. This was suggested in a recent podcast by Micky Tripathi, the President and CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative.

The full report can be read here: MeHI, a division of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, is a state-funded nonprofit entity for healthcare innovation, technology, and competitiveness.

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