U.S. Adoption of Electronic Health Records Nears 100 Percent

A survey released at the ONC Annual Meeting found that 96 percent of hospitals had certified EHR technology, compared with 72 percent in 2011.  

EHR adoption

Nearly all of the nation’s hospitals are now using certified electronic health records (EHRs), according to a survey released at the 2016 annual meeting of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) in Washington, D.C.

The meeting, which runs through June 2, brings together stakeholders from across the public and private sectors to discuss how best to ensure the “seamless and secure flow of health information for a number of national priorities,” the ONC said in a May 31 statement.

Three agendas of this year’s meeting include improving consumer access to health care information, preventing information blocking and implementing national standards that enable different health IT systems to speak with each other.

“Data showing the nearly universal adoption of certified electronic health records are an indication of how far we have come for clinicians and individuals since the HITECH Act was passed,” National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and Acting Assistant Secretary for Health Karen DeSalvo said in a statement,

Introduced in 2009, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act has led to an increase in the adoption of health IT.

According to the survey, 9 percent of non-federal acute-care hospitals used basic electronic health records (EHR) in 2008, while today 84 percent do; in 2011, 72 percent used certified EHR, and today 96 percent do.

Small, rural and critical access hospitals continue to lag. However, since 2014, small, rural hospitals have increased their adoption of basic EHR by 14 percent and critical access hospitals have increased adoption by 18 percent.

Psychiatric and children’s hospitals also have significantly lower EHR adoption rates than general medicine hospitals. EHR adoption rates in general medicine jumped to 84 percent in 2015, while adoption was 15 percent at psychiatric hospitals and 55 percent at children’s hospitals—in sharp contrast to rates of 7, 10 and 12 percent in 2008.

“Realizing the full value of widespread EHR adoption will require focusing on these new challenges, and it will be important to shift our focus from hospital adoption of EHRs to monitoring progress in these new areas,” the report said. “This would not only include hospitals' interoperability but also examining health IT adoption and interoperability across additional settings, including long-term care providers and behavioral health care providers, and beyond the care continuum, such as social services and public health.”

An ONC briefing, also released May 31, offered a snapshot of the interoperability of non-federal acute-care hospitals, as of 2015.

The rate at which information—such as radiology reports, care summaries and lab results—is being exchanged has doubled since 2008, from 41 percent to 82 percent in 2015. And even between 2014 and 2015, the percentage of hospitals using, sending, receiving and finding key clinical information “grew significantly,” said the briefing. During that 12-month span, the percentage of hospitals doing all four rose from 23 to 26 percent.

However, the top reason (given by 53 percent of respondents) for not using patient health information received electronically is that it couldn’t be read within the clinician’s EHR, the briefing said.

Other reasons included difficulty integrating information in the EHR (45 percent) and that the information was not always available when needed (40 percent).

The While House project manager for the Precision Medicine Initiative, Stephanie Devaney, will participate in the ONC meetings June 1, along with Gwynne Jenkins from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and P. Jon White from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

A livestream of the conference is available on the HealthIT.gov site.