US Lags Behind On Physician EMR Use

Posted on February 20, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

US doctors are far behind most of their counterparts in Europe and Australia when it comes to EMR adoption, according to a new study by The Commonwealth Fund.

To get a sense of EMR adoption internationally, the Fund surveyed almost 9,800 primary care physicians representing 11 countries.  The results: the U.S. still  has a ways to go to catch up with peers in other developed nations.

True, U.S. doctors’ uptake of health IT has gone up dramatically, from 46 percent using an EMR in 2009 to 69 percent in 2012, the study found.

That being said, doctors in such countries as the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, the U.K., Australia and Sweden all reported EMR usage rates above 88 percent in 2012.  The country with the lowest adoption rate was Switzerland, which trailed all countries in the survey with a 41 percent EMR uptake rate by physicians in 2012.

As for sophisticated usage of EMRs, defined by the Fund as using at least two electronic functions such as order entry management, generating patient information, generating panel information or clinical decision support, the U.S. didn’t make it onto the list of power users. Only the U.K., Australia and the Netherlands had more than 50 percent of doctors who did so.

Despite the gap in usage between other nations and the U.S., I thought the nearly 70 percent rate of primary care usage was a very positive sign.  I don’t know if this jump is 100 percent attributable to Meaningful Use — I believe PCPs see the writing on the wall and will go with EMRs to manage medical home functions regardless — but either way, it’s a sign that changes major and permanent have happened among the primary care flock.

Still, what really matters isn’t just how many PCPs have bought an EMR. What I’d like to know is how many of those 70 percent are tackling Meaningful Use requirements effectively, and how many are still stymied. If I find that data you can be sure I’ll share it here!