Survey: EHR Plans Abound, but Optimism Wanes

Although most health care provider organizations plan to have electronic health records in place in the next five to ten years, many are unenthusiastic about creating networks to share those records and are daunted by the continuing challenges of implemen

In 2004, President George W. Bush declared that widespread electronic health record systems and networks would be up and running in the United States within a decade.

But according to a recent survey of health care provider organizations released Feb. 13 by Oracle, 38 percent are skeptical that that ambitious goal will be met. This faction argues instead that it may closer to two decades to realize a functioning national health information network.

Still, more than half of the health care provider organizations surveyed believe that the United States will achieve a national health information network by 2014. And, contrary to previous surveys, it seems that physician groups may be leading the way when it comes to EHR implementation.

/zimages/4/28571.gifAnother study found that doctors with EHRs have more complete patient information. Click here to read more.

Half of the physician groups surveyed expect to have a functioning EHR system within the next year. Thats more than any other category of health care provider organizations. (Small physician groups notoriously lag in EHR implementation, given budget and technical limitations, but only 18 percent of the organizations participating in this survey had fewer than 100 employees, so that may be a group largely overlooked by this survey.)

Clinics/community health organizations are also hoping to lead the charge to EHR implementation—92 percent plan to implement EHRs and 46 percent indicate they will complete implementation in less than one year. Physician practice groups as well as hospitals and health care systems are also largely enthusiastic about a five-year target—86 percent of each group plans to implement EHRs.

Overall, 77 percent of providers say they plan to implement EHRs and 85 percent of those estimate completion within five years. But only 42 percent of respondents are currently participating in or plan to participate in a regional health information organization. So even if organizations invest in EHRs, it may take much longer to realize the benefits associated with allowing broad health care provider access to these records.

Even when it comes to just implementing EHRs in their facility, health care provider organizations have plenty of worries. Three-quarters of providers surveyed cite technology and implementation costs as the top challenge to EHR rollout and 44 percent cite IT infrastructure challenges. Specifically, respondents singled out the requirement for IT standards and health care system interoperability as their primary concern. Other issues include security, privacy and change management.

Respondents are hoping that the government and industry will chip in to help shoulder the heavy costs of electronic health record implementation. They are hopeful that direct government funding (67 percent), industry technology donations (58 percent) and tax incentive programs (52 percent) will accelerate the national health network rollout and their individual EHR implementations.

A total of 364 respondents completed this survey; their organizational types include hospitals and health care systems; managed care facilities; independent delivery networks; public health organizations; clinics and community centers; and physician group practices.

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