Physician EMR Use Passes 50% – Yeah Right…

The CDC recently did a survey of EMR use in doctor’s offices and they reported that EMR use rose to 50.7% in 2010. The 50.7% of physicians estimated to use EMR systems in 2010 was up from 48.3% in 2009, 42% in 2008 and 34.8% in 2007. Well, with that data, I think it’s pretty clear that they have some issues defining EMR use, no?

Here’s a paragraph from the American Medical News article on the study:

The latest CDC information on EMR use, released on Dec. 14, 2010, was based on surveys mailed to 10,301 physicians between April and July 2010. About two-thirds of physicians responded to the survey, according to the CDC. The 50.7% of physicians estimated to use such systems in 2010 was up from 48.3% in 2009, 42% in 2008 and 34.8% in 2007. The 2010 estimate is preliminary, because it relies only on the mailed responses and not answers gathered through follow-up calls. The CDC National Center for Health Statistics counted as an EMR any system that is all or partially electronic and is not used exclusively for billing.

So, from this paragraph let me provide a better conclusion: 50.7% of Physicians use some form of software in their clinic.

As most of you know, I’m not a huge fan of arguing over the definition of words, but to say that over 50% of doctors use EMR is laughable since their definition of EMR is so broad. Here’s the real details from the study on what percentage actually really use an EMR (as most people would define EMR):

According to the survey, 24.9% of office-based physicians had access to a “basic” EMR system, while only 10.1% had a “fully functional” system.

I think their definition of “fully functional” EMR system is probably too stringent. Their definition of “basic” EMR system is probably too simple. So, I’d conclude that actual EMR use is somewhere between 10% and 34.9% or 22.45% if we average the 2 numbers. Close to 25% EMR adoption feels like the right number to me, so I’m glad to see the real data supports that conclusion.

What the 50% number does indicate is that half of physicians are looking at electronic methods to improve their office. I’d project that another 25% are seriously considering the idea of implementing an EMR, but haven’t done anything yet. 75% (using my projections) of doctors interested in EMR and other technology is still a bit far from the 100% number, but considering the past history of healthcare IT I’ll say that’s progress.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

5 Comments

  • I am so glad you wrote this article. When I read the CDC report I just didn’t believe the 50% number. I read into it more and came up with 25% being a more realistic number as well.

  • Any survey that gets published, one really should read the underlying methodology and supportive narrative. The referenced CDC report is what ONC uses on their web site for physician office (http://healthit.hhs.gov/portal/server.pt/community/healthit_hhs_gov__adoption_and_meaningful_use/1152).

    One clarification I like to make on your comment is that “full” numbers are already PART of “basic” numbers (if you are a full user, then you are already counted as a basic user) so one must be careful when doing any further analysis – e.g. you should not add the basic and full numbers together to say that the new number is adoption rate for at least basic EHR.

    Unfortunately the hospital numbers referenced on ONC site, the basic and full numbers are increments – that they are mutually exclusive so you must ADD them together if you want to use a number that’s at least basic adoption.

    For our market research projects, we use 24.9% for combined provider/clinic adoption rate and 9.1% for the hospitals.

  • Bobby,
    If the basic is full number is in the basic, then why does it say only 34.9% use a basic EMR? That doesn’t match the 50% headline. Maybe I should look at the actual study some more.

    I’m glad to see you use essentially the 25% number as well.

  • Hi John,
    The headline stat is based on response to the question on the survey, “Does the reporting location use an electronic medical record (EMR) or electronic health record (EHR) system? Do not include billing record systems.” Then the survey further asks about specific features to determine the “basic” and “full” levels of adoption. Here’s link to the actual survey you can review – http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ahcd/2010EMRSurveyfinal.pdf.

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