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More physicians and hospitals are using EHRs than before

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Significant increases in the use of electronic health records (EHRs) among the nation’s physicians and hospitals are detailed in two new studies published by the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).

The studies, published in the journal Health Affairs, found that in 2013, almost eight in ten (78 percent) office-based physicians reported they adopted some type of EHR system. About half of all physicians (48 percent) had an EHR system with advanced functionalities in 2013, a doubling of the adoption rate in 2009.

About 6 in 10 (59 percent) hospitals had adopted an EHR system with certain advanced functionalities in 2013, quadruple the percentage for 2010. Unlike the physician study, the hospital study does not have an equivalent, established measure of adoption of some type of EHR system; it only reports on adoption of EHRs with advanced functionalities.

“Patients are seeing the benefits of health IT as a result of the significant strides that have been made in the adoption and meaningful use of electronic health records,” said Karen DeSalvo, M.D., M.P.H., national coordinator for health information technology. “We look forward to working with our partners to ensure that people’s digital health information follows them across the care continuum so it will be there when it matters most.”

The information in the studies was collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics and the American Hospital Association in 2013.

These data provide an early baseline understanding of provider readiness to achieve Stage 2 Meaningful Use of the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive programs.  Stage 2 will begin later this year for providers who first attested to Stage 1 Meaningful Use in 2011 or 2012. About 75 percent of eligible professionals and more than 91 percent of hospitals have adopted or demonstrated Stage 1 Meaningful Use of certified EHRs.

The studies also show that more work is needed to support widespread health information exchange and providers’ ability to achieve Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs. Among the details include the following:

  • In 2013, health information exchange among physicians was relatively low: 4 in 10 (39 percent) reported they electronically share data with other providers, but only 14 percent electronically share data with ambulatory care providers or hospitals outside their organization.
  • In 2013, the vast majority of hospitals had capabilities that could be used to support many Meaningful Use Stage 2 objectives but were not being used. However, 10 percent of hospitals were providing patients with online access to view, download, and transmit information about their hospital admission.

Throughout 2014, HHS has prioritized its efforts to support providers in achieving Meaningful Use Stage 2 and work toward an interoperable health system that enables nationwide health information exchange. These include:

  • On-the-ground support from many of the 62 ONC-funded regional extension centers to more than 150,000 providers that serve all types of patients, including Medicare, Medicaid, private pay, and uninsured, helping them use their EHRs to meet the Stage 2 measures such as those for clinical quality improvement, transitions of care, care coordination, and the privacy and security requirements;
  • Sharing tools and resources to support providers in engaging their patients in their health and health care using health IT tools, and to help meet the “view, download, and transmit measure” needed to achieve Meaningful Use Stage 2; and
  • Webinars, user guides, tip sheets, listserv subscriptions and other educational resources provided by the CMS eHealth University and available on the CMS website.


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