EMR Divide Remains Between Larger And Smaller Practices

Posted on January 31, 2014 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

A new study finds that while physicians’ adoption of EMRs has grown substantially between 2009 and 2012, there’s still a big “digital divide” between large and small medical practices, according to a Commonwealth Fund study reported by iHealthBeat.  But it also concluded that there are ways to close the gap, largely through cash incentives and tech help.

According to the study, EMR adoption by primary care physicians increased from 46 percent in 2009 to 69 percent in 2000.  What’s more, Commonwealth Fund found that most doctors are using core health IT functions, including clinical decision support, e-prescribing and electronic ordering of lab tests.  This is clearly a sign that Meaningful Use Stage 1 has had a large impact. (We’re still waiting to see whether doctors continue to drop out and avoid Stage 2’s tougher criteria.)

The study also found that as of 2012, 33 percent of doctors could electronically exchange clinical summaries, and 35 percent could share lab or diagnostic tests with physicians outside their practices electronically.

But these results were not distributed evenly.  Specifically, researchers found that practice size substantially affected EMR adoption.

For example, the research found that 90 percent practices with 20 or more doctors had adopted EMRs, but that just 50 percent of solo physician practices were on board. That being said, the study found higher rates of EMR adoption among small practices that were sharing resources or that took advantage of Meaningful Use incentives.

All told, researchers concluded that technical assistance programs that incentives close the digital divide regarding EMRs between large and small practices.  This just makes sense. If such programs can make it easy and even lucrative to adopt EMRs, we could see the digital gap close soon.