EHR adoption will remain incomplete if more attention isnt paid to system type

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More focus should be given to the type, not the number, of EHR systems that are being adopted, according to a new study published in the September/October issue of the American Journal of Medical Quality.

The study, "Incomplete EHR Adoption: Late Uptake of Patient Safety and Cost Control Functions," found that Florida physicians who had recently adopted EHR systems were more likely than early adopters to use incomplete systems, lacking patient safety and cost-control features.

The researchers from Florida State University College of Medicine and Texas Tech University examined 4,203 physicians in Florida, 995 of whom reported use of an EHR system to evaluate EHR implementation and the degree of its functionality.

Those who installed EHR systems 10 or more years ago were called innovators, while early adopters were defined as physicians who installed systems three to nine years ago.

After controlling for type, size and scope, the study found that innovators and early adopters were more likely than recent adopters to have EHRs with patient-safety and cost-control functionalities, such as the ability to prescribe medications and access pharmacy information electronically.

Nir Menachemi, PhD, director for the Center on Patient Safety at Florida State University College of Medicine, said that the study's findings have led him and his colleagues to believe that providers' intrinsic motivation influences the type of system they adopt.

Considering President Bush’s initiative to implement EHRs nationally by 2015, Menachemi said, “Having a drop-dead date for anything in my opinion is probably not the best way of doing it.” He added that “if we have to have a date, it should probably be readjusted based on how things are going.”

Menachemi and his colleagues have received funding to repeat the study in 2008 to assess how adoption of EHR functionality has evolved in the past three years.