NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Subsidizing Electronic Health Records Fails to Deliver

September 4, 2014

Since 2009, the federal government has sent $26 billion in taxpayer dollars to hospitals and doctors that have installed electronic health records (EHRs). Senior Fellow John Graham writes at the NCPA Health Policy Blog that the money has been a waste, as facilities are not sharing information with one another.

EHR adoption requires "meaningful use" of EHRs. "Meaningful use" is defined in three different steps, the first being to install EHRs in one's hospital or doctor's office. That step was completed:

  • The percentage of physicians with an EHR increased from less than 22 percent to 48 percent.
  • The percentage of hospitals with EHRs rose from 12 percent to 44 percent.

But the point of using electronic health records was that providers would "electronically transmit patient care summaries with each other and with the patient to support transitions in care." This was the goal of the next two steps, which have not been as successful. In fact, only 10 percent of ambulatory practices and 30 percent of hospitals have engaged in health information sharing.

Graham says this reality is not surprising: no competing party wants to share data with another competitor, thus many health care providers have adopted EHRs but are not engaging in information-sharing. Reportedly, the Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT is seeking even more funding -- beyond the $26 billion that has been spent to encourage EHR adoption -- to encourage greater information sharing. According to Graham, "Congress should be very skeptical of appropriating yet more funding to hunt this unicorn."

Source: John R. Graham, "'Interoperability of Electronic Health Data is a Unicorn," NCPA Health Policy Blog, September 3, 2014. 


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