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J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2009 Jul-Aug;16(4):465-70. doi: 10.1197/jamia.M3081. Epub 2009 Apr 23.

Physicians' use of key functions in electronic health records from 2005 to 2007: a statewide survey.

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MPH Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Boston, MA, USA.


OBJECTIVE Electronic health records (EHRs) have potential to improve quality and safety, but many physicians do not use these systems to full capacity. The objective of this study was to determine whether this usage gap is narrowing over time. DESIGN Follow-up mail survey of 1,144 physicians in Massachusetts who completed a 2005 survey. MEASUREMENTS Adoption of EHRs and availability and use of 10 EHR functions. RESULTS The response rate was 79.4%. In 2007, 35% of practices had EHRs, up from 23% in 2005. Among practices with EHRs, there was little change between 2005 and 2007 in the availability of nine of ten EHR features; the notable exception was electronic prescribing, reported as available in 44.7% of practices with EHRs in 2005 and 70.8% in 2007. Use of EHR functions changed inconsequentially, with more than one out of five physicians not using each available function regularly in both 2005 and 2007. Only electronic prescribing increased substantially: in 2005, 19.9% of physicians with this function available used it most or all the time, compared with 42.6% in 2007 (p < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS By 2007, more than one third of practices in Massachusetts reported having EHRs; the availability and use of electronic prescribing within these systems has increased. In contrast, physicians reported little change in the availability and use of other EHR functions. System refinements, certification efforts, and health policies, including standards development, should address the gaps in both EHR adoption and the use of key functions.

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