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Doctors, consumers paint a bleak EHR adoption picture

Most people want their providers to have access to health information in electronic health records (EHR) but few patients are tapping those electronic resources themselves, according to a new online poll released June 17 by the market research firm Harris Interactive Inc.

About 9% of patients can use email to communicate with their physicians, up from 4% of patients in 2006. Scheduling doctor’s visits online and receiving diagnostic results by email are patient activities that have jumped to 8% from 3% and 2%, respectively, four years ago. The poll of 2,035 adults was conducted in June.

Still, consumers are unsure whether their providers use EHRs. Almost half of those surveyed, 42%, said they didn’t know if their doctors had an EHR, according to the poll.

If they don’t know, it’s because the health care industry hasn’t made its case for EHRs, said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of the Harris Poll, a service of Harris Interactive.

“The policy wonks talk very persuasively about all of the improvements in quality that come from having a complete electronic medical record,” Taylor said in a written statement, but “that case has not really been made effectively to the public.”

Perhaps the case has yet to be made to providers as well.

According to the latest computer physician order entry analysis by research firm KLAS, only 14%of hospitals are using CPOE in a meaningful way. Automatic drug ordering is expected to be one of the federal criteria for meaningful use, with providers required to achieve 10% of prescriptions through CPOE to comply with Stage 1.

For the rest of hospitals in the country to catch up and meet the Stage 1 meaningful use deadline, larger hospitals will have to adopt CPOE at a rate 30 times faster than they have done for the past year. For smaller community hospitals to meet the earliest deadline, eight facilities will have to go live with CPOE every day until July 1, 2011, KLAS said in its report, CPOE: Traffic Jams on the Road to Meaningful Use. The research firm monitors health care vendors’ products and performance.

Barriers to adoption remain, said physicians responding to another survey, this one from EHR developer athenahealth Inc. In its first Physician Sentiment Index, the company found doctors are enthusiastic about health IT but still daunted by price tags and time-consuming implementation programs. In addition, IT systems detract from their personal time with patients and don’t deliver measurable financial goals, doctors said in the index. The current regulatory environment — from the HITECH Act to the health care reform law — also have damped providers’ thoughts about the future of their industry, according to the index.

“Physicians want to focus on being the best doctors they can be, but there are all these things getting in the way,” said Jonathan Bush, CEO and chairman of athenahealth, in a written statement. “They’re caught between caring for their patients and remaining viable businesses.”

Without more cheerleaders among doctors, it’s hardly a wonder consumers aren’t more enthusiastic about health IT adoption.

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