Electronic health record (EHR) adoption trends in the United States tend to vary among specialties and practice size. In 2009, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was brought into effect in order to boost EHR use and health information exchanges (HIE). Recent results show that while physicians are increasingly adopting EHRs, they’re not as willing to communicate electronically with patients or use HIEs.

By 2013, 48% of office-based physicians had, at the very least, a basic EHR, which was a 22% increase from 2012 statistics. Primary care physicians had a higher adoption rate than specialists, leading by a margin of 53% to 43%. It’s clear that the initiatives taken to increase EHR implementation have been successful. Conversely, the percentage of office-based physicians using electronic HIEs is a mere 39%. Only about 25% of physicians engage with patients using electronic means.

It seems that hospitals and physicians are struggling to attest to Meaningful Use Stage 2 because it requires the use of both HIEs and patient engagement. The Health Information Technology Policy Committee reported just 972 providers and 10 hospitals who had qualified for MU2 midway through 2014. Not surprisingly, physicians in larger practices have better EHR implementation rates, as well as HIE use and electronic communication with patients. This makes sense as they have better resources to do so than smaller, single specialty practices. The survey also showed that physicians in the Midwest were more likely to adopt EHRs than physicians in the Northeast.

The reasoning behind the lack of electronic data exchange appears to be due to privacy constraints, workflow interruptions, and limited interoperability among different EHRs. In order for physicians to become comfortable with engaging in electronic communication and exchanging health information via HIEs, these issues must be addressed.

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