News: Why docs are turned off by EMR systems

July 1, 2008

Although some physicians are using EMR systems, the nation is not closer than it was in 2004.

Although some individual physicians are using electronic medical record (EMR) systems, the nation as a whole is not substantially closer than it was in 2004 to having an interconnected, interoperable network, according to American Medical News (5/19/08). A report by the California HealthCare Foundation concluded that a major reason for insufficient progress is that physician practices have been slow to adopt EMRs. Other reasons the report cited include the impractical nature of a national health information network, the difficulty of creating interoperability standards, and the failure of Congress to pass legislation to address health information technology roadblocks. The report was based on interviews with 22 health information technology experts from across the country.

Only 14% of physicians have minimally functional EMR systems-those on which doctors can record and manage progress notes, order tests, record test results, and electronically prescribe medications. Practices with 11 or more physicians-only 8% of doctors-are more likely than smaller practices to use EMRs. One quarter of these larger practices used comprehensive EMRS in 2006, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This compares with 7.1% of solo practitioners and 9.7% of those with a partner: These two types of practices account for almost half of all doctors.

So why are practices dragging their heels about adopting EMRs? A major reason is the high cost of EMRs, combined with a small return on investment. Indeed, an American Medical Association study found that physicians receive only 11 cents for every dollar saved through using an EMR. Another reason is that older physicians resist the technology. The CDC study found that 7.6% of physicians older than 65 use some form of EMR, compared with 47% of physicians younger than 35.