For many years, using more information technology has been promoted as a way to improve quality and lower spending, especially administrative spending, in health care. Based on that belief, Congress enacted significant incentives, and ultimately penalties, to encourage greater use of information technology by providers, through the meaningful use program for physicians, other eligible professionals, and hospitals. Although it will take significant research to ascertain whether the adoption of more HIT actually improves outcomes, the first step is to actually get providers to purchase and use systems, generally electronic health or medical records. Articles in the journal Health Affairs report on the status of adoption. (HA Article)
According to the survey data used by the authors, about half of all office-based physicians were using an EHR in 2011, up from about 20% in 2002, but only about one-third of those physicians were using systems considered to have basic features needed to meet meaningful use requirements, so in reality, only about 17% of doctors are using an appropriate EHR. Adoption is fairly uniform geographically, but lags among non-primary care doctors, older ones and those in small and physician-owned practices. For hospitals, performance isn’t much better. About 27% of hospitals have any kind of an EHR, up from 15% in 2010, but only 8.7% have a system that would be considered comprehensive. Smaller, nonteaching and rural hospitals are slower adopters. Only around 18%, however, could meet meaningful use requirements in even one unit of the hospital. A final article noted that although many physicians are generally eligible for meaningful use incentives and most intend to apply for them, very few are actually going to meet the requirements to receive an incentive. So far, the EHR program is hardly a resounding success in even getting providers to purchase systems.