EHR adoption still rocky but improving

Jun 2, 2016 | Healthcare Industry News

Since the introduction of electronic health records, it's been a bumpy road of adoption and overcoming limitations to make sure these systems can benefit hospitals in the way their administrators intend. Ideally, health organizations should be able to efficiently store and share information to increase accuracy and improve care. However, the reality hasn't been so ideal.

What The ONC Reports Show
Recently, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology released a data brief report based on a supplement to the 2015 edition of an annual survey by the American Hospital Association discussing the rate of EHR adoption and its challenges.

The report shows positive numbers for EHR adoption, with 96 percent of hospitals having an EHR that's been federally tested and certified for the government's incentive program. This is an increase from the 71.9 percent in 2011, which was the first year for the incentive program.

"The program has nearly completed one of its goals, but another continues to struggle."

That means the program has nearly completed one of its goals, but another continues to struggle, which is "interoperability." Another report using data from the American Hospital Association found that 82 percent of hospitals now exchange data, such as laboratory results, radiology reports or patient information, which is a significant growth from the 45 percent who responded that they were doing so in 2009. However, that doesn't mean the data is applied in any meaningful way.

The survey also found that only only 18 percent use that information, while 35 percent reported using it sometimes, 20 percent use it rarely and 16 percent said never. The most prevalent reason for this trend is that accessing this data, according to 53 percent of respondents, disrupts a clinician's' typical workflow. The second biggest reason, reported by 45 percent of respondents, is difficult integration of exchanged information.

Other Challenges With EHR Adoption
The past year has been notoriously full of data breaches, making it even harder for EHRs to reach their full potential. According to the ONC, nearly 120 million individuals were affected by a hack or other IT breach in 2015.

However, the ONC found that public concerns over EHR security had actually decreased from 2012 to 2014, dropping from 77 percent of respondents reporting that they were very or somewhat concerned with privacy of medical records to only 58 percent, respectively.

Despite this change, the number of survey respondents who withheld information due to privacy concerns has remained relatively stagnant, from 7 percent in 2012 to 5 percent in 2014. If these numbers continue to decrease, it's one less roadblock preventing hospitals and other care providers from fully adopting these systems.

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