(HealthDay News) — Almost 80% of doctors in the United States have switched from paper to electronic health records, new government statistics show.
By 2012, almost 72% of physicians had made the change, compared to just under 35% in 2007, according to the report from the CDC. Since then, the number of doctors using electronic health records (EHRs) has increased even more, added lead researcher Esther Hing, a statistician at CDC’s U.S. National Center for Health Statistics.
Among doctors who turned to EHRs in 2012, 39.6% used a basic system, up from 11.8% in 2007, the researchers found. And 23.5% had a fully functional system, up from 3.8% in 2007, according to the findings published May 20 in the CDC’s National Health Statistics Reports.
“In 2013, 78% of physicians were using electronic health record systems,” Hing said. “We are reaching nearly all doctors.”
She noted that the progress is largely the result of the federal government’s financial incentives to help doctors change to electronic recordkeeping. “These incentives have had a large part in the increased adoption of these systems,” Hing said.
However, about 40% of doctors aren’t using the full capabilities of their system. Once the system is installed, there is a steep learning curve before doctors and other staff are able to use it efficiently, she said.
Basic systems keep track of patient data, prescriptions and lab test results, whereas more advanced features can graph patient tests to note trends and keep track of changes in the patients’ health over time.
Hing noted that the real goal of these systems is to improve patient care, but whether or not they do is still unknown.
“We are still evaluating the results. We think it improves the care provided to a patient. Anecdotally, in certain settings, it’s been demonstrated that these systems have improved health by improving coordination of care, reducing medication errors and overuse of tests,” Hing added.
Other survey findings include a smaller gap between EHR implementation at large and small practices. In 2007 larger practices (11 doctors or more) were more likely to have an electronic record system than smaller practices — just over 74% compared with about 21% — but by 2012 that gap had narrowed.
As more doctors adopted electronic record systems, however, the gap between those who used a basic system and those who took advantage of all the features of their system widened from an estimated 10% in 2007 to about 31% in 2012, Hing said.
One expert applauded the increased use of electronic health records.
“Medicine is entering the 21st century at long last,” said David Blumenthal, MD, president of the Commonwealth Fund. “Despite the fact that it’s hard for many individuals — especially those in solo practice, especially older physicians and nurses — […] and the systems aren’t perfect, we are on the way toward the information age in medicine.
“I have absolutely no question that there will be a payoff in terms of patient care,” he added.
Doctors aren’t the only ones turning to electronic health records. A report released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation last July found that the number of hospitals with a basic electronic health records system tripled from 2010 to 2012, with more than four of every 10 hospitals equipped with the new health information technology.
- Hsiao CJ, Hing E, Ashman J. Trends in electronic health record system use among office-based physicians: UnitedStates, 2007–2012. National health statistics reports; no 75. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2014. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr075.pdf.