As Florida’s healthcare thought leaders gather for the Associated Industries of Florida Health Care Affordability Summit, new data emerges regarding physicians’ adoption of health information technology (HIT) and electronic medical records (EMR).
Long believed to be an integral aspect of health care cost containment, the promise of these savings are limited by high setup costs — particularly for small practices.
Data released this week by the Commonwealth Fund suggest that financial incentives by private, state and federal programs are working: adoption of HIT rose dramatically from 2009 to 2012.
Among U.S. primary care physicians, EMR adoption increased by half, from 46 percent to 69 percent, from 2009 to 2012. During this time, the proportion of physicians able to issue prescriptions electronically rose from 34 percent to 66 percent, the practice of electronic prescribing rose from 40 percent to 64 percent, and electronic ordering of lab tests rose from 38 percent to 54 percent.
Primary objectives in the use of HIT include the ability to communicate securely with patients and other physicians. In 2012, these practices were operational in only about one-third of primary care practices.
One third of physicians could exchange clinical summaries with other providers and 35 percent could share the content of lab or diagnostic tests with outside physicians. By about the same margins, physicians provided electronic access to patients, such as the ability to electronically view tests results, request refills or make appointments.
HIT adoption in larger practices of 20 or more physicians is substantially higher (90 percent) than those in smaller groups (about half).
“Although federal funds have led to a rapid expansion of health information technology, solo practices continue to lag in adoption,” The Commonwealth Study concludes. “Technical assistance programs and financial incentives could help bring these physicians up to speed and enable them to provide high-quality care more efficiently.”
Where does Florida stand on EMR and HIT adoption relative to other states? A 2008 study found that the overall EMR adoption rate in Florida rose from 24 percent in 2005 to 35 percent in 2008; and a 2012 report listed Florida as having the third highest rate of EMR adoption in the nation, at 37 percent.