Nearly 75% of Physicians Have Certified EHRs

Ken Terry

January 29, 2016

The percentage of office-based physicians who had a certified electronic health record (EHR) system increased to 74.1% in 2014 from 67.5% in 2013, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), published online January 27.

The report did not specify which set of certification criteria these EHRs met. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT allowed physicians to use EHRs that met either 2011 or 2014 certification standards to attest to meaningful use in 2014. In 2015, however, they had to use a 2014 edition-certified EHR.

Up to now, NCHS has been using a different yardstick to measure physician EHR adoption. Last year, the center said that 78.4% of physicians used any kind of EHR in 2013 compared with 71.8% in 2012. A far smaller percentage of physicians, just 48.1%, had what the NCHS termed a "basic" EHR in 2013, up from 39.6% in 2012. A basic EHR enables users to meet some, but not all, of the requirements for meaningful use.

According to the new NCHS report, the percentage of primary care physicians with certified EHRs rose from 72.1% in 2013 to 78.6% in 2014. Among non–primary care physicians, the percentage increased from 63.1% to 70.3%.

The percentage of physicians who had a certified EHR ranged from 58.8% in Alaska to 88.6% in Minnesota. Other states where above-average numbers of physicians had certified systems included Iowa, North Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota, and Vermont.

The NCHS found that in 2014, 39.1% of physicians electronically shared information with ambulatory providers or hospitals. Among physicians with certified EHRs, 47.8% shared data compared with 29.7% of those who lacked certified EHRs.

A third of physicians (32.5%) with a certified EHR electronically shared patient data with external providers or unaffiliated hospitals. Just 16.8% of physicians who lacked a certified EHR did so.

Overall Dating Sharing Limited

The percentage of physicians with certified EHRs who shared data externally ranged from 17.7% in New Jersey to 58.8% in North Dakota.

Only 12.9% of physicians shared data only with internal providers or hospitals. Slightly more of those with certified EHRs did so.

Overall, the amount of data sharing was still quite limited. Of physicians who had a certified EHR, 52.2% did not share data with any ambulatory providers or hospitals, and 70.3% of those without certified EHRs failed to share any data.

On the positive side, about 15% of physicians with certified EHRs shared patient information with home health, long-term care, or behavioral providers.

Previous surveys have indicated that information sharing among physicians was fairly low. A 2012 study, for example, showed that just 10% of physicians belonged to a public health information exchange (HIE). (Although private HIEs also exist, they mostly exchange data within the enterprises that own them.) In a recently released review of HIE studies, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that 38% of office-based physicians used an HIE in 2013.

In addition to HIEs, the main vehicle for exchanging data among unrelated providers is Direct secure messaging. DirectTrust, a trade association for Direct messaging participants, recently reported strong growth in the use of the technology. More than 44 million Direct transactions were performed in 2015, bringing the total to more than 67 million since 2013, DirectTrust said. However, Direct was still a very small factor during the period surveyed by NCHS.

"Adoption of Certified Electronic Health Record Systems and Electronic Information Sharing in Physician Offices: United States, 2013 and 2014." NCHS Data Brief 236. Published online January 27, 2016. Full text

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