RWJF sees ‘unprecedented’ IT growth

July 9, 2013 in Medical Technology

The HITECH Act has had its desired effect so far, according to the latest annual report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which finds heartening adoption levels of health IT across the board, from small physician practices to academic medical centers, over the past three years.

The study, “Health Information Technology in The United States: Driving Toward Delivery System Change, 2013,” was co-authored by Mathematica Policy Research and the Harvard School of Public Health. It shows that in 2012, 44 percent of hospitals reported having a basic electronic health record system – up 17 percentage points from 2011.

Indeed, since 2010 – when providers started getting federal stimulus funds – the proportion of hospitals with at least a basic EHR system has nearly tripled, according to the RWJF report.

Physician practices, meanwhile, have also made substantial progress, with more than 38 percent reporting the adoption of basic EHR functionalities in 2012.

Of those providers who’ve made investments in IT, many have already made significant strides in putting it to work: some 42 percent of hospitals reported the implementation of all functionalities required to meet Stage 1 meaningful use this past year – up from 18.4 percent in 2011 and just 4.4 percent in 2010.

“Hospitals, physicians and other health care providers are clearly taking advantage of recent incentives to embrace the promise of technology,” said RWJF Senior Vice President John R. Lumpkin, MD, in a press statement. “It’s particularly encouraging to see that more doctors and hospitals are using electronic health records, which contribute to better care at the bedside.”

Still, the study spotlights several areas where there’s room for improvement. While U.S. physicians reported increased use of EHRs in 2012, the United States lags behind several other developed countries. In addition, researchers found room for improvement in using HIT to develop effective patient education tools that track progress and meaningfully engage patients.

“There is still a significant amount of work to be done to ensure that our health care system is as up-to-date as it can be,” said Lumpkin. “These kinds of technologies can lead to safer, higher-quality care.”

The study suggests that, with EHRs now in place, more and more providers are using them as building blocks for bigger IT initiatives and broader partnerships across their communities.

More than a quarter (27 percent) of hospitals are now participating in health information exchange initiatives – up from 14 percent in 2010. As for ambulatory practices, just 10 percent participate in an HIE – but that’s up from just 3 percent in 2010.

And that shared data is being put to strategic use, the RWJF report shows, with 33 percent of HIEs supporting accountable care organizations and 45 percent supporting patient-centered medical homes.

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