Electronic Health Records

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Physician EHR Use Increases, Health Data Exchange Still Lags

While physician EHR use increased to 74%, only 32% of those users are sharing electronic patient data.

By Sara Heath

Office-based physician EHR use jumped from 67.5 percent in 2013 to 74.1 percent in 2014, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control.

This jump could be credited to the meaningful use programs, which provide incentives for effective EHR adoption.

"The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) of 2009 provides incentive payments to eligible hospitals and providers that demonstrate the meaningful use of a certified electronic health record (EHR) system," the report says.

The CDC report, which defines a certified EHR as one that meets certification criteria set under the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services EHR Incentive programs, shows that office-based EHR adoption was fairly ubiquitous from state to state.

Although there were low-adopting states such as Alaska (58.8 percent adoption rate), most states hovered in the mid-70 percent range, which was not a statistically signification deviation from the national average.

Some of the highest office-based EHR adopters were in Iowa, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, South Dakota, and Minnesota. These states had adoption rates in the low to mid 80 percent range.

In all, the increase in office-based EHR adoption between 2013 and 2014 was fairly notable.

The CDC report also shows the extent to which providers used EHR data to share with outside providers. Between 2013 and 2014, patient data sharing grew to 32.5 percent among certified EHR technology users, and about 26 percent among all providers.

Data sharing became more standardized across all providers when it came to internal data sharing. On average, providers shared patient data with other providers within a practice at a rate of 12.9 percent. Approximately 15 percent of certified EHR technology users shared patient data with other providers within an organization.

There were a handful of states that stood out for high rates of patient data sharing, including Washington, Oregon, North Dakota, and Massachusetts, all with data sharing rates higher than the national average. New Jersey tended to share data less than the national average.

The CDC report also revealed that certain kinds of data was more likely to be shared than others. Behavioral health, long-term care, and home health data were the three most frequently shared data amongst certified EHR technology users.

Sharing electronic data is a significant requirement in Stage 2 meaningful use for eligible professionals (EPs).

First, EPs are required to provide summaries of care for 50 percent of transitions of care or referrals.

Second, EPs are required to provide summaries of care through electronic exchange on certified EHR technology, or through a health information exchange approved by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).

Last, EPs are required to send at least one successful electronic message to a provider with a different EHR vendor than the EP.

The first requirement proved to be most cumbersome. The performance score for that category was 40.45 percent, showing that communicating between EHRs is extremely difficult for many providers to do.

This recent CDC research reflects the same. Although there was in increase in the number of providers using certified EHR technology, the number of them electronically sharing patient information was somewhat low.

Only about 32 percent of certified EHR users electronically exchanged patient information, and only 15 percent exchanged the information between providers at the same healthcare organization.

These numbers point to some challenges ahead. Even though 2014 saw nearly three quarters of office-based providers using certified EHR technology, only 32 percent of them were sharing electronic information. As the EHR meaningful use programs forge ahead with Stage 3, providers may continue to see struggles with attestation.




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