Despite high EHR adoption, digital divide remains in advanced utilization

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Although the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) has grown, evidence of how hospitals are using advanced EHR features is lacking. In a study presented at the 2017 American Medical Informatics Association Annual Symposium, researchers analyzed EHR utilization to assess evidence of digital divides between health systems.

The study included data from the 2008 to 2015 AHA Annual and IT Supplement surveys covering adoption rates of basic and advanced EHRs. Researchers analyzed data based on hospital use and characteristics of EHRs for 10 quality improvement functions and 10 patient engagement functions.

Results of the 2,803 U.S. general medical-surgical acute care hospitals showed that 80.5 percent had adopted at least a basic EHR system, a 5.2 percent increase since 2014. The most common EHR-supported quality improvement function was monitoring patient safety at 71.4 percent, followed by creating dashboards of provider performance at 68.1 percent. The least common function was reported aa creating approaches for clinicians to query data at 39.58 percent.

“Hospital EHR adoption is widespread and many hospitals are using EHRs to support QI and patient engagement. However, this is not happening across all hospitals,” concluded first author Julia Adler-Milstein, PhD, of the University of Michigan, School of Information and School of Public Health, and colleagues. “Our results suggest that policy efforts are impacting adoption of these functions. Patient engagement functions included in the meaningful use program were among the most widely adopted functions, and participation in reform programs was associated with greater likelihood of adoption of both QI and patient engagement functions. Policymakers may need to consider specific actions to target safety net hospitals, which could include funding as well as technical assistance with implementation.”