Physician EMR Use Passes 50% – Yeah Right…

Posted on January 12, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The CDC recently did a survey of EMR use in doctor’s offices and they reported that EMR use rose to 50.7% in 2010. The 50.7% of physicians estimated to use EMR systems in 2010 was up from 48.3% in 2009, 42% in 2008 and 34.8% in 2007. Well, with that data, I think it’s pretty clear that they have some issues defining EMR use, no?

Here’s a paragraph from the American Medical News article on the study:

The latest CDC information on EMR use, released on Dec. 14, 2010, was based on surveys mailed to 10,301 physicians between April and July 2010. About two-thirds of physicians responded to the survey, according to the CDC. The 50.7% of physicians estimated to use such systems in 2010 was up from 48.3% in 2009, 42% in 2008 and 34.8% in 2007. The 2010 estimate is preliminary, because it relies only on the mailed responses and not answers gathered through follow-up calls. The CDC National Center for Health Statistics counted as an EMR any system that is all or partially electronic and is not used exclusively for billing.

So, from this paragraph let me provide a better conclusion: 50.7% of Physicians use some form of software in their clinic.

As most of you know, I’m not a huge fan of arguing over the definition of words, but to say that over 50% of doctors use EMR is laughable since their definition of EMR is so broad. Here’s the real details from the study on what percentage actually really use an EMR (as most people would define EMR):

According to the survey, 24.9% of office-based physicians had access to a “basic” EMR system, while only 10.1% had a “fully functional” system.

I think their definition of “fully functional” EMR system is probably too stringent. Their definition of “basic” EMR system is probably too simple. So, I’d conclude that actual EMR use is somewhere between 10% and 34.9% or 22.45% if we average the 2 numbers. Close to 25% EMR adoption feels like the right number to me, so I’m glad to see the real data supports that conclusion.

What the 50% number does indicate is that half of physicians are looking at electronic methods to improve their office. I’d project that another 25% are seriously considering the idea of implementing an EMR, but haven’t done anything yet. 75% (using my projections) of doctors interested in EMR and other technology is still a bit far from the 100% number, but considering the past history of healthcare IT I’ll say that’s progress.