According to a recent report issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the number of doctors who are using EHR in their private offices is increasing every year. In 2007, only slightly more than one-third of private practice physicians reported using EHR. In 2012, the number of private practice physicians using EHR increased to 78 percent. But what if you’re in the percent that can’t explain what makes a smartphone smart? Or the difference between EMR and EHR?
The CDC report is based on a survey conducted by the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. The survey was sent to thousands of non-federal physicians whose practice is office-based.
The financial incentive offered by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act is largely responsible for the increased usage by office-based physicians. Even so, there is still improvement that needs to be made.
Lead statistician of the CDC report, Esther Hing, says that although the number of primary physicians who are using EHR has substantially increased, 40 percent of them are not engaged in “meaningful use” as defined by the HITECH Act. The physicians are still in the beginning stages of adopting EHRs and just using them for patient demographics, histories and basic record keeping, such as keeping track of prescriptions and tests that have been ordered.
“Meaningful use” as defined by HITECH, requires physicians to also use EHR for ordering tests, not just keeping track of the fact they were ordered. EHRs are also to be used to digitally send prescriptions to a pharmacy, not just document that the medications were ordered.
Physicians have until the end of 2015 to meet the HITECH meaningful use requirements before they will incur penalties imposed on their Medicare and Medicaid payments. The penalties will be increased as time passes and physicians still are not in compliance with the meaningful use requirements.
The failure to convert paper records to EHR in the meaningful use capacity is primarily due to the time it takes. The physicians’ medical offices have to decrease their daily workflow and see fewer patients while they are spending the time to install and to learn how to use the system.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reports that hospitals are adopting EHRs faster than office-based physicians. In fact, by the end of 2012, 40 percent of all hospitals were using EHRs. This was three times the number using them in 2010.
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