Fully-Featured Pediatrics EHRs Still Not In Wide Use

A new research study suggests that while pediatricians’ use of EHRs has climbed substantially, relatively few use systems which offer a full range of specialty-specific options.

The study, which drew on data gathered by the American Academy of Pediatrics, noted that 94% of pediatricians responding to the AAP’s Periodic Survey reported using EHRs at their main practice site to conduct care in 2016. That’s up from 79% in 2012 and 58% in 2009. The Periodic Survey was sent to about 1,600 non-retired AAP members providing direct patient care.

The study also found that pediatrician attitudes towards the EHRs have grown more positive over time as well. The data indicated that between 2012 and 2016, pediatricians in the survey became more likely to report that their EHR had a major positive impact on practice activities.

For example, 44% said that their system helped them with generating new prescriptions and refills in 2016, up from 29%. They were also more enthused about EHRs’ impact on measuring quality (39% vs. 15%), appropriate immunization delivery (20% vs. 13%), well-child care (15% vs. 9%) and communication with patients and their parents (13% vs. 9%).

However, the share of pediatricians who felt their EHR had improved communication with other providers fell over the same period, from 26% to 20%.

Also, while pediatricians responding to the survey reported that EHR functionality had generally improved, adding features such as the ability to view lab results and order prescriptions electronically, the systems still lacked important functions as well. Just 17% of the pediatricians answering the 2016 survey questions reported having pediatrics-specific EHRs stocked with features like weight-based dosing, the ability to track immunization schedules and a feature for plotting growth charts.

Though these statistics are interesting, and in my view worth reporting, I think this is one of those situations in which more current data would be helpful.

Why do I say this? Back in 2016, I wrote up a survey from research firm Black Book noting that a whopping 86% of specialist medical and surgical practices reported interest in switching from generalist to specialist EHRs. The survey also found that 93% of specialists surveyed felt templates found in specialty EHRs offered a substantial benefit when patients need individualized documentation.

At the time, 89% of the physicians said that the reason they’d started out with good-enough-but-not-great EHRs was that they were too focused on meeting Meaningful Use guidelines to vet their current EHR thoroughly. Given that things have changed on the incentive front, and so many others for that matter, have specialists actually made the switch?