EHR Use by FPs Has Doubled Since 2005

January 14, 2013

Family physicians (FPs) have doubled their adoption rate of electronic health records (EHRs) since 2005, and roughly 2 in 3 FPs were using the technology in 2011 compared with 55% of other office-based physicians, according to a new study published online January 14 in the Annals of Family Medicine.

At this rate of growth, more than 80% of FPs are expected to rely on digital charts, lead author Iman Xierali, PhD, from the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care, Washington, DC, and colleagues write.

The study authors crunched 2 different sets of data to calculate the pervasiveness of EHRs. One source was a census survey completed by candidates for the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM) Maintenance of Certification Exam. According to these figures, FP usage of EHRs rose from 28.0% in 2005 to 67.8% in 2011.

The other set of data was from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS) conducted by the statistical wing of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It showed EHR adoption by FPs rising from 24.8% to 66.4% during the same period.

In contrast, adoption among office-based physicians outside of family medicine increased at a slower rate, rising from 23.8% in 2005 to 55.2% in 2011, according to the NAMCS data.

Leaders and Laggards

On a state-to-state basis, FP usage of EHRs is uneven. In Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin, more than 75% of FPs were using electronic charts in 2011, according to the ABFM. In Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, and 7 other states, that rate was less than 55%.

A similar map of leaders and laggards emerged from the NAMC data.

The authors cited several possible reasons why EHRs are catching on in some states more than others:

  • some states invest more in digitizing healthcare,

  • state-by-state EHR adoption may reflect greater or lesser degrees of penetration by managed care and integrated health systems, and

  • some states have a greater prevalence of large group practices and provider organizations, which may find it easier to switch to EHRs, given their greater resources.

"Whatever the explanation, the interstate variability could help identify areas for targeted interventions, eg, adjustments to federal funding for various [Health Information Technology Regional Extension Centers]," the authors write.

The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Ann Fam Med. Published online January 14, 2013. Full text