Background: Limited data exist to estimate the use of electronic health records (EHRs) in ambulatory care practices in the United States.
Methods: We surveyed a stratified random sample of 1829 office practices in Massachusetts in 2005. The one-page survey measured use of health information technology, plans for EHR adoption and perceived barriers to adoption.
Results: A total of 847 surveys were returned, for a response rate of 46%. Overall, 18% of office practices reported having an EHR. Primary-care-only and mixed practices reported similar adoption rates (23% and 25%, respectively, P = 0.70). The adoption rate in specialty practices (14%) was lower compared with both primary-care-only (P < 0.01) and mixed (P < 0.05) practices. The number of clinicians in the practice strongly correlated with EHR adoption (P < 0.001), with fewer small practices adopting EHRs. Among practices that have EHRs with laboratory and radiology result retrieval capabilities, at least 87% of practices report that a majority of their clinicians actively use these functionalities, while 74% of practices with electronic decision support report that the majority of clinicians actively use it. Among the practices without an EHR, 13% plan to implement one within the next 12 months, 24% within the next 1-2 years, 11% within the next 3-5 years, and 52% reported having no plans to implement an EHR in the foreseeable future. The most frequently reported barrier to implementation was lack of adequate funding (42%).
Conclusions: Overall, fewer than 1 in 5 medical practices in Massachusetts have an EHR. Even among adopters, though, doctor usage of EHR functions varied considerably by functionality and across practices. Many clinicians are not actively using functionalities that are necessary to improve health care quality and patient safety. Furthermore, among practices that do not have EHRs, more than half have no plan for adoption. Inadequate funding remains an important barrier to EHR adoption in ambulatory care practices in the United States.