NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 20, 2008

Doctors who use electronic health records say overwhelmingly that such records have helped improve the quality and timeliness of care, yet fewer than one in five of the nation's doctors have started using such records, according to a government-sponsored survey published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Other findings:

  • Electronic health records were used in less than 9 percent of small offices with one to three doctors, where nearly half of the country's doctors practice medicine.
  • Electronic records were used by 51 percent of larger practices, with 50 or more doctors.
  • Some 54 percent of doctors without electronic health records said that not finding an electronic health record that met their needs was a "major barrier" to adoption.

Doctors who use electronic records were in agreement about their benefits, according to the survey:

  • Some 82 percent of those using such electronic records said they improved the quality of clinical decisions.
  • Some 86 percent said they helped in avoiding medication errors.
  • Some 85 percent said they improved the delivery of preventative care.

Bringing patient records into the computer age, experts say, is crucial to improving care, reducing errors and containing costs in the American health care system.  Last week, the government introduced a new program to encourage doctors to use electronic records:

  • The $150 million Medicare project will offer doctors incentives to move from paper to electronic patient records.
  • The program is intended to help up to 1,200 small practices in 12 cities and states make the conversion.
  • Individual doctors will be offered up to $58,000 over the five-year span of the project.

Source: Steve Lohr, "Most Doctors Aren't Using Electronic Health Records," the New York Times, June 19, 2008; based upon:  Catherine M. DesRoches et al., "Electronic Health Records in Ambulatory Care -- A National Survey of Physicians," New England Journal of Medicine, June 18, 2008.

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