ONC survey: 84% of hospitals have adopted EHR

Nearly 84 percent of non-federal acute care hospitals had adopted a basic electronic health records (EHR) system with notes through 2015, an increase of 8 percentage points from the year before.

The survey data presented by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) at its annual meeting in Washington, D.C., also showed nearly all hospitals (96 percent) possessed certified EHR technology, which may mean adoption of certified EHR systems "may be plateauing.”

By most measures in the survey, EHR adoption can be considered widespread, even among the types of facilities that had lagged behind in previous studies. More than 80 percent of rural, critical access and small (fewer than 100 beds) hospitals reported having a least a basic system in 2015. Adoption rates increased by at least 14 percent for small and rural hospital from 2014, and by at least 18 percent for critical access hospitals.

A few gaps in adoption remained. In 2008, the oldest data included in the survey, EHR adoption between general medicine, children’s and psychiatric hospitals did not differ by significant margins. But by 2015, children’s hospitals reported a lower adoption rate (55 percent), while the rate at psychiatric hospitals was only at 15 percent.

“This is not altogether surprising as only 69% of children's hospitals successfully attested to Stage 1 of the CMS Medicaid EHR Incentive Program, and psychiatric hospitals are not eligible for the CMS Medicaid or Medicare EHR Incentive Program,” the survey said.

The survey also found that with increased adoption came increased functionality. Between 2014 and 2015, there was an 11 percent increase in using EHRs with advanced features above basic system with clinician notes, along with a 42 percent decrease of less advanced systems which didn’t include clinician note functions.

The conclusion the ONC draws from the survey is the push for EHR adoption in hospitals is just about complete.

“Efforts that have focused on EHR adoption now are shifting to interoperability of health information, and the use of health information technology to support care delivery system reform,” the survey said. “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. This would not only include hospitals' interoperability but also examining health IT adoption and interoperability across additional settings including long-term care providers and behavioral health care providers, and beyond the care continuum, such as social services and public health.”