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US hospitals making only modest gains in adoption of electronic health records
Date:8/26/2010

Boston, MA Transforming the U.S. health care system from paper-based to electronic-based may improve health care quality and reduce costs, but a new study by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) suggests that goal is far off. The adoption of basic or comprehensive electronic health records (EHR) by U.S. hospitals increased modestly from 8.7% in 2008 to 11.9% in 2009, but only 2% of hospitals met the federal "meaningful use" standard needed to qualify for government financial incentives.

The researchers also found that smaller, rural, and public hospitals fell further behind their larger, private, and urban counterparts in adopting EHRs, further widening the gap between the two groups in receiving the benefits of health information technology.

The study appears August 26, 2010, in an advance online edition of Health Affairs.

"Getting hospitals to start using EHRs is critical," said lead author Ashish Jha, associate professor of Health Policy and Management. "Paper-based medical records lead to hundreds of thousands of errors each year in American hospitals and probably contribute to the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans. This is not acceptable. There is overwhelming evidence that EHRs can help, yet the expense and the disruption that implementing these systems can cause has forced many hospitals to move slowly."

The researchers drew from a survey by the American Hospital Association, which asked 4,493 acute-care non-federal hospitals about their health information technology efforts as of March 1, 2009; 3,101 (69%) responded. A representative from each hospital reported on the presence or absence of 32 clinical functions of an EHR and how widely they had been implemented throughout the hospital. Responses were statistically adjusted to balance for hospitals that did not respond.

They found that hospitals' adoption of basic or comprehensive EHR systems increased by 3.2% between 2008
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Contact: Todd Datz
tdatz@hsph.harvard.edu
617-998-8819
Harvard School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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