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Study: Most Physicians Aren’t Meeting Meaningful Use Criteria for EHRs

June 4, 2013
by Rajiv Leventhal
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As of early 2012, fewer than one in 10 doctors had met meaningful use criteria for electronic health record (EHR) systems, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The study found that while increasing numbers use a basic EHR—from nearly 34 percent in early 2011 to 44 percent in March 2012— only 9.8 percent of 1,820 primary care and specialty doctors said they had electronic systems that met U.S. rules for meaningful use.

The physicians surveyed were randomly selected from a sample obtained from the American Medical Association from October 2011 to March 2012. The survey inquired about measures of EHR adoption previously developed by the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology.

Other key findings from the study include:

  • More than four of 10 primary care physicians (45 percent) and specialists (41 percent) use a “basic EHR.” Basic EHR functions include viewing lab results and ordering prescription drugs electronically. Physicians practicing in larger groups were more likely than their counterparts to have a basic EHR.
  • While the percentage of physicians reporting that they meet all 11 federal meaningful-use criteria was small, a larger share reported meeting most of them. Among primary care physicians, 41 percent had between eight and 10 meaningful-use functions, as did 37 percent of specialists.
  • The most commonly performed tasks using EHRs were: viewing lab results, ordering prescriptions electronically, viewing X-rays, and recording clinical notes.
  • Among physicians who reported they were close to meeting the federal standard (i.e., those with between eight and 10 of the required functions), many reported challenges using the more advanced EHR features that allow data to be exchanged electronically with physicians outside the practice, generate quality metrics, or provide patients with an after-visit summary.

In instances where EHR systems with advanced functionality were implemented, physicians said they were not always easy to use. "Using EHRs as simple replacements for the paper record will not result in the gains in quality and efficiency or the reductions in costs that EHRs have the potential to achieve," the authors wrote. To encourage physicians to take advantage of the broad range of EHR functionality, physicians may require assistance with implementation, training, and upgrading systems. In addition, further research on usability could help realize the full potential of these tools.

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