Electronic Health Record Use at an All-Time High

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Person looking at data on tabletAccording to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), almost all hospitals currently utilize certified electronic heath record (EHR) technology and meet meaningful use requirements promoted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. A complementary technology, personal electronic health records (PHRs), increases patient access to information, allowing the monitoring and sharing of data. As the healthcare field standardizes EHR technology, the ONC predicts escalating PHR use.

Spearheading EHR Implementation

A 2016 survey, conducted by the ONC found that 96 percent of United States hospitals use certified EHR technology. [1] The ONC, which reported on this finding at their annual meeting in Washington DC, supports a threefold agenda, which consists of:

  • Increasing patient access to health information
  • Encouraging healthcare providers to share information
  • Creating a universal standard to link all health information networks

The group acknowledges that almost all institutions use EHRs, as mandated by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) of 2009, but also advocates health information sharing among:

  • Long-term care facilities
  • Mental health organizations
  • Social health providers
  • Public health agencies

ONC leaders call for refocusing attention toward this objective by monitoring these groups for EHR adoption.

Bringing Caregiving Organizations up to Speed

The ONC reports that 9 in 10 hospitals meet patient information meaningful use standards, successfully qualifying for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Program. [2] Additionally, almost 60 percent of private practice physicians qualify for the incentive.

Regional extension centers (RECs) support widespread EHR implementation by training and consulting with health organizations. As of 2016, 90 percent of all REC supported caregiving organizations and physicians demonstrate certified meaningful use. Among the physicians, 75 percent comply with meaningful use standards. Nationwide, 80 percent of all rural hospitals receive REC support, far exceeding the ONC objective to help 100,000 primary care providers successfully implement EHR frameworks.

A Big Change from the Past

In 2011, only 72 percent of hospitals utilized certified EHR systems and only 9 percent of non-emergency facilities used the technology. [1] Between 2008 and 2015, EHR implementation among general practitioners jumped from 7 to 84 percent. During the same period, psychiatric hospitals increased EHR implementation from 10 to 15 percent, and EHR implementation among pediatric health facilities grew from 12 to 55 percent.

Legislative support is the catalyst behind these improvements. [3] The Center for Information Technology predicts that caregivers will save $21 billion annually if 80 percent of the population utilizes PHRs. To support this goal, the HITECH Act granted $25.9 billion for EHR promotion and implementation, moving the United States closer to creating a unified patient information system.

Personal Electronic Health Records (PHRs)

PHRs are electronic health records that patients can access from any Internet connected device, which reside primarily on standalone and tethered networks. Patients fill information into standalone PHRs, which remains on their personal computer or cloud storage service, and choose whether to share this information with care providers or family members. [4] Additionally, patients can add supplemental information, such as dietary and fitness records.

Tethered PHR systems link directly to provider information networks. [4] Patients can view information such as historical lab results, immunizations and upcoming appointments. With the technology, organizations reduce administrative workloads by allowing patients to complete tasks, such as booking appointments and requesting prescription refills.

Encouraging Engagement with PHRs

Patients activating tethered medical portals are more likely to engage with caregivers. Almost 60 percent of users access their accounts within 30 days after creation, and almost all patients access their accounts within a year.

The rate at which age groups adopt portal usage mimics patient distribution among primary care providers. The 51 to 66 year-old demographic composes around 30 percent of the patient population. The senior population is the smallest group, at around 20 percent, but shows a remarkably higher portal access ratio compared to the 19 to 35 year-old demographic.

A Positive Outlook for the Future

A report issued by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) forecasts patient PHR adoption increases in the near future. [3] Duly, the health information association looks forward to better understanding how PHRs impact clinical outcomes. However, the AHIMA believes primary care physicians are slow to implement the technology due to unwillingness to change their workflow and lack of financial incentives. The organization desires to educate stakeholders to change this tendency.

Caregiving organizations have experienced improved patient outcomes after implementing EHR frameworks. The technology digitizes patient information and allows care providers to find opportunities to improve medical practices. Today, most caregiving disciplines are EHR certified and meaningful use compliant. Using the technology, care providers are granting unprecedented access to health information, increasing patient engagement and positive outcomes. The ONC forecasts this trend to continue as the technology matures.

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The University of Illinois at Chicago delivers some of the most innovative and comprehensive Health Informatics and Health Information Management programs in the country. Our advanced degree and certificate programs can prepare you to make an immediate impact within your organization and play a vital role in the evolution of the healthcare industry as a whole.


[1] http://www.eweek.com/it-management/u.s.-adoption-of-electronic-health-records-nears-100-percent.html
[2] http://dashboard.healthit.gov/quickstats/quickstats.php
[3] http://perspectives.ahima.org/diffusion-and-use-of-tethered-personal-health-records-in-primary-care/
[4] https://www.healthit.gov/providers-professionals/faqs/are-there-different-types-personal-health-records-phrs