Electronic health record use grows big

By BenefitsPro

By Kathryn Mayer

The number of doctors using electronic health records has topped 90 percent, and nearly half of the doctors say they now use health information exchange technology, an increase of 32 percent, according to a new survey from Accenture.

Accenture’s survey — which polled the health IT usage of 3,700 physicians in the United States, Canada, England, France, Germany, Spain, Singapore and Australia — found that 93 percent of American docs are now using EHRs, and that 45 percent said they routinely access clinical data from outside their own organization.

It’s an impressive increase in adoption by U.S. doctors, who boosted 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.

Previous research has shown that EHR adoption was not as fast as many have hoped, as many doctors have had a hard time accepting and using them.

In recent analysis from the RAND Corp., researchers said despite huge investments in them — upwards of billions of dollars — cost savings remain elusive. That’s mostly due to the “sluggish adoption of health IT systems,” coupled with the choice of systems that are neither interoperable nor easy to use; and the failure of health care providers and institutions to reengineer care processes to reap the full benefits of health IT.

But the rapid increase of adoption, as shown by Accenture, is in part due to the administration’s new rules regarding health technology.

In March, the U.S. health department kicked off a campaign prioritizing health information technology in 2013. One major initiative is to accelerate the adoption of electronic health records among physicians — aiming for half of all physician offices to use them by year-end — while also aiming to improve interoperability.

The administration also has offered incentives to doctors who adopt EHRs, and assessed penalties to those who do not. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said EHRs they will “improve the way care is delivered while lowering costs.”

“U.S. doctors are increasingly embracing EMR and HIE, which enables virtual integration outside a single medical office,” Mark Knickrehm, Accenture’s global managing director, said in a statement.

“This growing trend strongly supports a patient-centered approach to care and reinforces the progress physicians are making as they prepare to meet the meaningful use guidelines required by the Affordable Care Act.”

American doctors reported the highest routine use of two IT capabilities: e-prescribing (65 percent) and entering patient notes into electronic medical records (78 percent), which represent a 34 percent annual increase. They also said they are regularly using electronic lab orders (57 percent) and receiving their clinical results, such as lab tests, directly into their EHR.

The majority of doctors in all countries reported that EHR and HIE have had a positive impact on their practice, such as reducing medical errors (76 percent) and improving the quality of data for clinical research (74 percent).

But that said, EHR use is still far from flawless.

U.S. doctors were the least likely (38 percent) to report that using EHRs and health information exchange technology reduced their organization’s costs. They also said that cost was the single greatest barrier to technology adoption.

Originally published on BenefitsPro.com