Electronic Records Lacking in Many U.S. Doctors' Offices

Only 17 percent of U.S. physicians have electronic records systems; cost is a barrier for many

WEDNESDAY, June 18 (HealthDay News) -- Only a small minority of U.S. physicians have electronic health record systems in their offices, with cost the most commonly cited barrier to adoption among those without access to a system, according to an article released online June 18 in advance of publication in the July 3 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Catherine M. DesRoches, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues analyzed data from a national survey of 2,758 physicians who reported on their access to outpatient electronic health records in office practices and the effects of such systems on their patient care.

The investigators found that 4 percent of physicians had a "fully functional" system -- with functions including clinical-decision support and order-entry management -- and 13 percent had a basic system lacking some of these capabilities. Those without access to a system cited barriers including capital costs (66 percent), failure to find a system that met their needs (54 percent), and concern over a system becoming obsolete (44 percent).

"Our study and others serve to underscore both the potential benefits of electronic health records and the low current availability of this technology. The combination of these findings suggests that the U.S. health care system faces major challenges in taking full advantage of electronic health records to realize its health care goals. President Bush has proposed that electronic health records should be widespread in the U.S. health care system by 2014, and both of the likely presidential candidates have prominently featured the diffusion of electronic health records in their health care proposals," the authors write.

Three of the study co-authors disclosed a financial relationship with GE Corporate Healthcare, with one of them also disclosing serving as an adviser to the Obama presidential campaign.

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