EMR Gap Grows Between Large, Small Hospitals

Meaningful Use incentives may have boosted EMR adoption dramatically, but the incentive program has had an uneven effect on the industry, new research suggests.

According to a new study published  in the journal Health Affairs, the EMR adoption gap between small- and large-hospitals is substantial and growing.  The study drew on responses by executives from 2,646 hospitals, or about 58 percent of all acute care hospitals in the country.

First, the good news. Researchers found that hospitals with EMRs grew from 15 percent in 2010 and 26.6 percent in 2011. They also found that the number of hospitals with a “comprehensive system”  rose from 3.6 percent to 8.7 percent, according to a piece in Information Week.

The not-so-good news, however, is that not all hospitals are joining the party at the same rate.  The study reported that 15 percent EMR adoption gap seen in 2010 has grown to almost 22 percent last year.

And the problem doesn’t end there. As Chantal Worzala, director of policy at the American Hospital Association and co-author, told the magazine, it’s clear that smaller hospitals’ problems may get worse over time.

As hospitals struggle to move through MU stage one and move into Stage 2 compliance, smaller hospitals are likely to get further and further behind, as they don’t have the infrastructure or staff to allow for high-volume exchange of clinical data.

So, what should happen next?  Researchers had a couple of suggestions for policy-makers:

* Consider lowering the MU Stage 2 bar for smaller, rural and nonteaching hospitals
* Create a special program designed to bring hospitals with little health IT in place on board with an EMR

Short of buying systems for half the country’s hospitals, though, I don’t think the government can do much to  eliminate this adoption gap. With hospitals short of IT staff, facing a tight budget and running on a narrow or non-existent margin, moderate incentives and pressure alone won’t do the trick.  Readers, what solutions would you suggest?

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.

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