"They also worry about their system becoming obsolete," she said. "They also worry that the system is going to go down, and they will have a waiting room full of patients, and they can't get to anyone's record."
But, she added, doctors who have these systems are very satisfied with them. "It makes care more effective and efficient," she said.
DesRoches thinks that eventually, most doctors will adopt an electronic system. In fact, the survey found that 40 percent of those physicians who did not have an operational system said they had purchased one but hadn't started to use it, or they planned to buy one, she said.
Both Medicare and private insurance companies are pushing doctors to adopt electronic medical record systems as a way of monitoring quality of care, which will be a basis for reimbursement levels, DesRoches noted.
One electronic medical records expert doesn't think this survey truly reflects which physicians are using electronic systems or takes into account the ultimate goal of computerized medical care.
"What we are talking about is moving physicians into the computer age," said C. Peter Waegemann, chief executive officer of the Boston-based Medical Records Institute, which promotes the use of electronic medical records. "We are changing the way physicians practice medicine, from an intuitive art to a computer-guided, computer-based care system."
Waegemann said that while only about 20 percent of doctors have electronic record systems, the number varies by specialty and region of the country.
"About 50 percent of family practitioners have electronic health record systems. Among pediatricians, 40 to 50 percent have systems," Waegemann said. "In states such as Massachusetts, New York and California, you have maybe 40 to 50 percent implementation. When you get to Mississippi and Idaho, you have maybe 4 percent."
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