News: Most physicians don't use electronic health records

August 1, 2008

Majority of physicians do not use EHRs.

A new national survey reported in The New England Journal of Medicine (7/3/08) showed that the overwhelming majority of physicians are not using electronic health records (EHRs) but that those who do have such systems are extremely satisfied with them and believe they improve quality of care.

Investigators surveyed more then 2,700 physicians in a variety of specialties. Only 4% of respondents reported having a "fully functional" EHR and 13% a "basic" system. In the fully functional systems a physician could record patients' clinical and demographic data, view and manage results of laboratory tests and imaging, manage electronic prescriptions, and support clinical decisions (including warnings about drug interactions or contraindications). A basic system has most of the same functions, except for certain order-entry capabilities and clinical-decision support. The vast majority of physicians with either type of system reported using the available functions at least some of the time.

Physicians who were younger, were in large or primary-care practices, worked in hospitals or medical centers, or lived in the West were most likely to have an EHR system. Physicians who practice in groups of more than 50 were three times as likely to have a basic EHR system and more than four times as likely to have a fully functional EHR system as physicians in groups of three or fewer. A large majority of physicians with EHRs reported being satisfied with them overall. Users also cited the positive effects of the system on the quality of clinical decisions, communication with other providers and patients, prescription refills, timely access to medical records, avoidance of medication errors, and delivery of long-term and preventive care.