US EHR Adoption Slow, but Steady
August 13, 2014
Katie Sullivan, MA
With the speed at which technology advances, it can be surprising that the majority of US medical records are not yet available electronically — but the nation is gradually making the transition to great electronic health record (EHR) use.

In 2008, fewer than 10 % of hospitals utilized a basic EHR system. By 2009, doctors and hospitals were increasingly integrating electronic systems into their practices courtesy of stimulus funding from Medicare and Medicaid payments.

Today, nearly 60% of hospitals have adopted at least a basic electronic health record system, while 25.5% have a comprehensive EHR system (compared to 0% in 2008). There was a similar trend among office-based providers.  In 2009, about 48% of providers had an EHR system, with 21.8% having a basic EHR system. In 2013, those percentages rose to just over 78% and 48% respectively.

Although EHRs seemingly promise to make care delivery more efficient and reduce patient complications, they can be pricey investments for providers. A 5-person practice could spend $162,000 on average in first-year investment costs, and nearly $85,000 in system maintenance fees. For large hospitals, costs could rise into the millions.

University of Michigan public health professor Julia Adler-Milstein recently told The Washington Post that health information technology will likely become more important and integrated as health systems become more accountable for the quality of care they provide.

“If you don't have this data to know how you're performing, it's going to be hard to figure out how to improve value,” she said.

CMS designated “meaningful use” standards for EHRs to ensure that Medicare and Medicaid payments continue to promote value-based care. In order to continue receiving federal payments, providers have to demonstrate they are meeting these standards, but some hospitals and doctors struggle. Only 6% of hospitals reported readiness for stage 2 meaningful use, and an estimated 90% lack in sharing information with patients.

Still, despite the challenges that remain, the progress of EHR adoption is encouraging.

Harvard School of Public Health professor Ashish Jha recently attested to that notion, saying, “There is no country in the world that has moved this far, this fast on EHR adoption.”

Around the Web

Electronic Health Records Were Supposed to be Everywhere this Year. They’re Not — But It’s Okay [The Washington Post]