According to the CDC, the number of office-based physicians who use electronic health records (EHRs) increased from 29.2 percent in 2006 to 78.4 percent in 2013. As EHRs become increasingly sophisticated and beneficial, more doctors adopt them as part of their office operations.
What inspires physicians to make the jump from analog record-keeping to EHRs? Several factors are involved in the increasing use of EHRs among physicians as well as the improved relationships between doctors and EHRs. Following are some of the most common motivations.
EHR Vendors Are Now Targeting Smaller Practices
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Niam Yaraghi of U.S. News and World Report predicts that more office-based physicians will adopt EHRs because the technology vendors have already targeted larger organizations. Vendors started with hospitals and other big venues because larger organizations offer greater revenue opportunities. Now that 95 percent of eligible hospitals have adopted health IT resources like EHRs, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), vendors are targeting smaller practices.
Additionally, Yaraghi speculates that physicians will update to more advanced forms of EHRs, further enmeshing themselves in the technology. For example, the most basic EHR programs do not allow advanced functionality, such as sending prescriptions electronically to the appropriate pharmacy. Doctors who want to increase their office efficiency will want to upgrade their systems.
The Federal Government Has Incentivized EHR Adoption
EHRs offer several benefits to physicians, from enhanced communication between medical professionals to easier record-keeping, but the federal government offers financial incentives as well. According to HealthIT.gov, several programs exist to reward physicians who put EHRs to “meaningful use,” with financial bonuses of up to $63,750.
The rewards do not come in one lump sum. Instead, the government pays out rewards over a period of six years. The rewards are higher for critical care hospitals, with reward possibilities reaching nearly $2 million. Private physicians can still capitalize on the opportunity to use health care informatics to their advantage, as long as they can demonstrate the meaningful use requirement.
Physicians Have Access to Advanced Proficiency Training
According to the National Institute of Health, several training options now exist for physicians who want to adopt EHR technology, including local and national help desks, web-based training, and in-person courses. The NIH study found that clinicians who participated in EHR training spent less time achieving specific goals and felt more comfortable with the program afterward.
The NIH lists time and lack of computer skills as two of the primary barriers to EHR adoption for physicians. When doctors do not feel comfortable navigating an EHR’s user interface, they may revert to traditional record-keeping practices to avoid the struggle. Training helps acclimate physicians to the programs and might help assuage their concerns about security risks and vulnerabilities.
Several factors influence a doctor’s decision to adopt an EHR, including personal issues such as age, computer proficiency, and financial situation. However, the increasing EHR adoption rate suggests that physicians are relying more on health care informatics.