Two New Studies Analyze EHR, Health IT Adoption Trends

July 10, 2014 in News

On Tuesday, the journal Health Affairs published two studies by current and former workers at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT that examine health IT adoption trends and challenges. Summaries of the studies appear below.

Study of Critical Access Hospitals

A study focusing on critical access hospitals found that 89% of such facilities as of 2013 had implemented an electronic health record system, but many still faced funding and workforce challenges (Pedulli, Clinical Innovation Technology, 7/9). It was authored by four ONC officials.

For the study, researchers analyzed a 2012-2013 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society survey, which was fielded to more than 1,300 CAHs (Gabriel et al., Health Affairs, July 2014).

The study found that:

  • Most CAHs had plans to adopt or already had adopted health IT technologies;
  • CAHs that shared resources with other providers were more likely to use EHRs, health data exchange and care coordination tools; and
  • CAHs that had faster Internet speeds were more likely to offer patients the ability to download, view and transmit their health information.

In addition, researchers found that as of 2013:

  • 70% of CAHs had adopted teleradiology capabilities;
  • 62% of CAHs with an EHR had a fully electronic system, compared with 27% who relied on paper and electronic records; and
  • 59% of CAHs had adopted telehealth capabilities.

However, just 15% of CAHs reported that they had adopted patient engagement technology (Clinical Innovation Technology, 7/9).

Federally Qualified Health Center Study

Another recent Health Affairs study focused on federally qualified health centers’ achievements and challenges as they implement EHR systems, FierceEMR reports. It was authored by two current HHS officials who worked at ONC when they conducted the study.

For the study, researchers examined data from 2010 to 2012 on more than 1,100 health providers from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Uniform Data System.

The study found that 90% of FQHCs in 2012 had adopted an EHR, compared with 64.8% in 2010. In addition, 49.5% of FQHCs in 2012 reported having capabilities that met criteria for a basic system, compared with 29.7% in 2010.

Further, the report found the rate of FQHCs that reported all of their sites and providers used EHRs increased from 50.7% in 2010 to 79.3% in 2012.

The study also found that differences in EHR adoption rates for rural FQHCs and FQHCs that treat a higher proportion of minority patients have “disappeared” since 2010. However, FierceEMR notes that “new disparities were evident in 2012 in that larger centers, those with fewer patients below the federal poverty level and ones in the Midwest, had higher adoption rates.”

In addition, the study found that while most FQHCs were nearly ready or fully prepared to meet Stage 1 of meaningful use, many centers had yet to adopt the capabilities needed for Stage 2.

Under the 2009 economic stimulus package, providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health records can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments (Durben Hirsch, FierceEMR, 7/8).

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