Are 93 Percent of Physicians Really Using EHRs?

Looks like we’re getting a lot closer to a healthcare environment where nearly every practicing physician is using electronic health records.

According to a new poll by Accenture, use of EHRs by physician is above 90 percent, and, according to the report in Healthcare IT News, nearly half of the doctors polled for the survey say they now use health information exchange technology – an uptick of 32 percent – a staggering 18 percent jump.

The Accenture poll compiled the responses of 3,700 physicians in the U.S., Canada, England, France, Germany, Spain, Singapore and Australia with 93 percent of American doctors now using EHRs. Forty-five percent of the physicians said they routinely access clinical data from outside their own organization.

According to the report: “U.S. physicians have posted the most impressive increase in adoption, showing a 32 percent annual increase in the routine use of health IT capabilities, compared to an average increase of 15 percent among doctors in the other countries surveyed, according to the survey.”

Perhaps more impressive, and showing the ever popular e-prescribing, Accenture says that American doctors said they regularly e-prescribe and enter patient notes into EHRs (no surprise here given meaningful use), representing a 34 percent annual increase.

As expected, and again no surprise, these same  physicians also use IT for basic clinical tasks, such as receiving alerts while seeing patients (45 percent).

More than half of U.S. doctors — 57 percent — said they regularly use electronic lab orders, a 21 percent annual increase – compared to 6 percent decline globally. Most U.S. physicians surveyed (62 percent) also receive their clinical results, such as lab tests, directly into their EHR system, a 24 percent annual increase.

As reported by Healthcare IT news, the majority of physicians said EHR and HIE have had a positive impact on their practice, such as a reduction in medical errors (as has always been one argument) and improvements in the quality of data collected (another benefit often cited.

However, doctors still are not seeing a reduction in costs for their practices even though they implemented and use the systems.

“They also said that cost was the single greatest barrier to technology adoption.” One personal experience, this is absolutely the case, so, again, this is not surprising.

According to Accenture, U.S. doctors are increasingly embracing EHR and HIE, which enables virtual integration outside a single medical office.

Meaningful use remains a clear driver, as do better systems that are more robust and capable of doing more than collecting patient’s health data. In my humble opinion, adoption is also the result of the others using the systems successfully and word of mouth is helping sell systems.

However, the frenzy over the initial implementation that’s consumed the market for the last two or three years and meeting meaningful use has led us to the current state of affairs where physicians feel as though their initial systems are not meeting there needs and a time for a switch is at hand.

Unfortunately and perhaps suggested here is that despite the system, in most cases they won’t lead to a reduction in costs. Efficiencies, perhaps, but most likely not costs. That’s one result I don’t expect to see change.

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