Physicians are Increasing their Use of Health Information Technology

Sixty-nine percent of primary care physicians in the United States used electronic medical records (EMRs) in 2012, a 50 percent increase from 2009, according to a study released by Health Services Research. Study authors reviewed “practice characteristics” that were affiliated with greater health information technology (HIT) use in 2012, as well as factors that could affect the adoption and functionality of primary care physician HIT use.

From 2009 to 2012, HIT use increased considerably, with a 33 to 66 percent jump in the number of physicians who are able to send prescriptions to pharmacies electronically; a 40 to 64 percent jump in electronic prescribing; and a 38 to 54 percent jump in electronic ordering of lab tests. As of 2012, 35 percent of primary care physicians were able to share lab or diagnostic tests with other doctors, and 33 percent were able to exchange clinical summaries. However, only a minority of primary care physicians gave patients electronic access for viewing test results, making appointments, or requesting prescription refills.

Authors of the study noted, “Federal efforts to increase adoption have coincided with a rapid increase” in health information technology (HIT) capacity. However, practice size was found to be a major factor in whether physicians adopted HIT or not. While 90 percent of physicians in practices with 20 or more physicians used EMRs, only 50 percent of solo practitioners did so. Physicians that either share resources, are eligible for financial incentives, or are involved in an integrated delivery system are more likely to adopt HIT.

To further increase the adoption of HIT and EMR use, the authors suggest, “Attention should be placed on technical assistance programs that can effectively outreach to practices in a variety of settings, such as the Office of the National Coordinator’s Regional Extension Center, located in every region of the country,” reported The Commonwealth Fund.