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Health & Medicine for Senior Citizens

Seniors Should Heed Study Showing Electronic Health Records Benefit Patients and Physicians

Majority of physicians said they were alerted to a potential medication error or critical lab value by an electronic health record; one-third say they help spot needed tests; Medicare offers physicians incentive

By Sharyn Alden, HBNS Contributing Writer

Jan. 2, 2014 – Senior citizens – the age group most in need of medical care, often from chronic problems – should check to see if their doctors are using electronic health records (EHRs). It may save their life. A new study in Health Services Research finds nearly three-quarters of physicians using EHRs  in 2011 said there were clinical benefits when patients’ medical histories were kept in digital files.

The study focused on doctors’ perceptions of clinical benefits to patient care when EHRs were in place.


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Jennifer King, Ph.D., chief of research and evaluation at the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology and lead author of the study, explained that physicians with longer experience using EHRs were more likely to report clinical benefits.

Researchers looked at the responses from 3,180 physicians to the Physician Workflow Survey questionnaire about their experiences with EHRs. 

“A majority of physicians said they were alerted to a potential medication error or critical lab value and about one-third reported that EHRs helped them identify needed lab tests or facilitated direct communication with patients,” said King.

The study’s findings may open up new opportunities for more doctors to gain health IT benefits. King said Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use program, which provides incentives from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for EHRs, includes policies designed to enhance the use of EHRs to exchange data between providers and give patients access to their health records. 

“These policies may increase the rate at which physicians are able to use their EHRs to realize benefits such as not ordering duplicate lab tests and identifying needed tests,” said King.

Wide Variation in Adoption of Electronic Health Records

A study in Health Services Research earlier this year found wide geographic variation in the adoption of  electronic health records (EHRs) by ambulatory health care sites, ranging from a high of 88 percent to a low of just 8 percent. Ambulatory care are health services provided on an outpatient basis to those who visit a hospital or another health care facility and depart after treatment on the same day.

Key Points

>> In 2011, 30 percent of ambulatory health care settings, accounting for 43 percent of outpatient providers, used electronic health records.

>> Providers in large metropolitan areas were less likely to have implemented electronic health records than providers in smaller metro and rural areas.

>> Ambulatory health care sites in areas with higher concentrations of minorities and lower income populations were slightly less likely to have implemented electronic health records.

Electronic Health Record Adoption Uneven Across U.S.
June 27, 2013

More from Health Behavior News Service

Electronic Health Records Can Measure Patient-Centered Care
November 21, 2013

Mickey McGlynn, chair of the Electronic Health Record Association and senior director of strategy and operations for Siemens Healthcare said “The study reinforces our view that meaningful use of EHR technologies can deliver clinical benefits and improve outcomes.”

McGlynn pointed out that the majority of care delivery in the U.S is provided in office settings with ten or fewer physicians and these environments have fewer resources to support health IT.

Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Programs

The Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs provide incentive payments to eligible professionals, eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs) as they adopt, implement, upgrade or demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR technology.

Eligible professionals can receive up to $44,000 through the Medicare EHR Incentive Program and up to $63,750 through the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program. Official CMS website

“Because of that, they have historically been late adopters of EHRs. Successful EHR adoption requires provider organization to integrate technology into their workflows and to adjust workflows over time to support their practices and specialties,” he said.

McGlynn added that the study may help those reluctant to invest in EHR technology to realize that benefits may not be achieved quickly but can be over time.

“EHR adoption is a journey not a destination All stakeholders must collaborate to ensure that requirements to achieve both benefits and incentives are practical and do not add unnecessary burdens to busy providers who must make patient care their top priority,” according to McGlynn.

Source: Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health, and Research Source: Health Services Research

Health Services Research is the official journal of the Academy Health and is published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. on behalf of the Health Research and Educational Trust.


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