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EHR adoption rates increased with passage of HITECH Act

After the passage of the HITECH Act in 2009, EHR adoption rates for eligible hospitals rose from 3.2% to 14.2% and EHR adoption rates for ineligible hospitals rose from just 0.1% to 3.3%, according to a report in the journal Health Affairs.

Unlike other incentive programs, the HITECH Act paid hospitals and physicians for having and using an infrastructure — in this case, an EHR. The authors of the report said the results suggest the HITECH Act could “serve as a model to drive the adoption of other valuable technologies.”

The authors used data from 2008 to 2015 from the Annual Health Information Technology Supplement Survey of the American Hospital Association to determine the rates of EHR adoption before and after President Obama signed the HITECH Act into law.

Prior to the HITECH Act, EHR adoption rates were low and increasing slowly, the report says.

According to a 2009 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, before the HITECH Act was passed, roughly 17% of doctors and 10% of hospitals had a basic EHR due to the cost of implementation and a perceived lack of ROI. At the time, Congress believed that health IT could improve the quality of healthcare and the efficiency of healthcare systems. The law received bipartisan support, but whether it has achieved its primary goal has yet to be seen.

The report concludes that the increase in EHR adoption can be directly attributed to the HITECH Act. The report does point out, however, that it is unclear how EHR adoption rates would have increased without the financial incentives of the HITECH Act.

However, the increase in EHR adoption rates may have had an unintended consequence. According to a study by the Mayo Clinic, EHRs could be causing physician burnout. More than half of the doctors surveyed (63%) said EHRs have failed to improve efficiency, and 41% disagreed or strongly disagreed that EHRs have improved patient care.