ONC: EHR adoption rates on the rise, but barriers to interoperability remain

Fewer hospitals are integrating EHR data, survey shows

Nearly all hospitals in the United States have adopted certified EHR systems, but many continue to report barriers to interoperability, according to new data from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).

ONC on Tuesday released separate data briefs of EHR adoption and interoperability based on the American Hospital Association's annual survey. Among other findings, the data briefs show trends in the EHR adoption since 2011—the year the federal EHR incentive program launched.

EHR adoption details

According to one data brief, 96 percent of non-federal acute care hospitals had adopted certified EHR technology by 2015, up from 71.9 percent in 2011.

Adoption of basic EHR technology between 2008 and 2015 rose from 9.4 to 83.8 percent, the data showed.

ONC defines a certified EHR as one that meets the functionality and security requirements set by HHS to qualify for the meaningful use incentive payments, while a basic EHR system must have a certain set of functions, such as discharge summaries and medication lists.

According to ONC, basic EHR technology adoption rates varied by facility type. For example, adoption by:

  • Critical access hospitals increased from 20 percent in 2011 to 80 percent in 2015;
  • Rural hospitals increased from 22 percent in 2011 to 80 percent in 2015; and
  • Small hospitals increased from 22 percent in 2011 to 81 percent in 2015.
The data also show variation in adoption of basic EHRs by hospital specialty. For example, adoption by:
  • Children's hospitals increased from 10 percent in 2008 to 55 percent in 2015;
  • General medicine hospitals increased from 12 percent in 2008 to 84 percent in 2015; and
  • Psychiatric hospitals increased from 7 percent in 2008 to 15 percent in 2015.

EHR interoperability details

ONC in a separate data brief noted mixed improvement in interoperability, Modern Healthcare reports.

For example, the percentage of non-federal acute care hospitals sending data electronically increased from 78 percent in 2014 to 85 percent in 2015, while the percentage of hospitals receiving such information increased from 56 to 65 percent during that time period.

However, the data brief showed that the percentage of hospitals using or integrating such information fell slightly from 40 to 38 percent between 2014 and 2015.

According to Modern Healthcare, the top barriers to interoperability included:

  • Difficulty integrating shared information into EHRs; and
  • The inability to view shared information in EHRs, requiring clinicians to leave their regular workflows to receive and view data.

In the data brief, ONC says national efforts to increase EHR adoption "now are shifting to interoperability of health information, and the use of health [IT] to support care delivery system reform." The agency adds, "Realizing the full value of widespread EHR adoption will require focusing on these new challenges and it will be important to shift our focus from hospital adoption of EHRs to monitoring progress in these new areas" (Conn, Modern Healthcare, 5/31; Durben Hirsch, FierceEMR, 5/31; Murphy, EHR Intelligence, 5/31; ONC data brief, 5/21).

Why the EHR life cycle is just like raising a child

A successful EHR system requires budget, resources, and planning—not only before it goes live, but after as well.

Learn how we can help you optimize your EHR investment In fact, the process of implementing, deploying, maintaining, and optimizing an EHR system is similar to that of raising a child—each stage of the process requiring a unique subset of people to ensure its success. Learn more about the seven stages of the EHR life cycle in this infographic.

Download the infographic


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