Do Primary Care Physicians Have A Bigger Stake in EMR Adoption?

Here’s a theory I’ve been working on — one which I’ve come to doubt — but I’ll put it out there anyway and see what readers think. As I’ve watched the slow, painful process of physician EMR adoption, I’ve had the sense that primary care physicians were under the most pressure to move ahead and were likely to lead the parade.

Sure, everyone has their eye on HITECH incentives, but primary care doctors have even more to worry about. For starters, they have a more challenging  population management task at hand.  Now, they’re under even more pressure, being expected to provide a “medical home” for patients, do more monitoring of their condition, coordinate specialist care and check up on patients’ compliance with preventive health measures.

In theory, PCPs can do such monitoring on paper, and some actually do.  But one can only assume that it’d be easier to manage these increasing levels of responsibility  — and to provide the extensive quality data health plans demand — if they get an EMR in place quickly.

Sure, I hear plenty about specialist EMR adoption, and technology for specific specialty niches, but my gut feeling has remained that primary care doctors have the most to lose if they don’t move quickly.

However, search though I might, I can’t find any anecdotal or statistical data to support my conclusion, so maybe I’m way off here.  Folks, what are you hearing?  Are primary care doctors adopting EMRs at a faster rate than their specialist colleagues, or are specialists picking up the ball at a similar pace?

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.


  • Good questions. 1) I don’t know where the speed of adoption lies between PCPs and subspecialists. 2) I wonder if the perceived pressure (i.e. benefits and penalities) placed on doctors regarding EMRs is all much ado about nothing, since nothing is really legally in place at this point regarding them. I love mine, but what’s with this pressure? Is it imagined? Maybe I’m just a raving lunatic.

  • A followup point that may make my previous point a bit clearer is that what happens if Obamacare and the government acts previously enacted get gutted or even repealed by the Republicans?

  • Not too worried by the incentives being repealed Dr. West. From the ground floor, having had to continuously interact with PCPs as well as specialists on a daily basis, my feel is that many of the Providers are now aware of the benefits of EHR. As we make the sales calls, in 09 and 10, EHR Concept had to be sold prior to selling the USP of our solution; now its straight away going to the USP making the sales process that much speedier. I don’t believe its pressure on Providers; more so, its about selecting the EHR of choice and getting the implementation done so that structured data is available in an easy to use/access format.
    To John’s comment, I agree with your assumption; its PCPs who will benefit the most over the near and medium term. And data gathering will be a laborious process if EHR is not adopted. Many of the PCPs understand this and a good number are in the process of acting on this; some faster than others.

  • I don’t think PCP’s in general have a bigger stake in adopting an “EHR”. However, I do believe independent practitioners have more at stake from the standpoint that they typically don’t have the resources the larger clinics and hospitals do. I work in the Chiropractic profession and EHR adoption has been slow mostly due to lack if provider understanding of the benefits of an EHR vs the cost. The early adopters are definitely the doctors eligible for CMS incentive dollars.

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