Objectives: To describe the benefits and limitations of incentive arrangements used to engage small primary care practices to adopt electronic health records (EHRs).
Study design: Retrospective review of program outreach efforts and EHR enrollment rates.
Methods: Comparison of benefits and limitations of various promotional strategies in addition to a city subsidy. Measures of enrollment progress include the mean number of outreach attempts, the mean number of days from first attempt to enrollment, and the enrollment yield. Selected practice demographics were collected for comparison purposes.
Results: Of 890 providers representing 217 practices who were eligible for the city subsidy, 37.7% enrolled, with a mean of 96.6 days from first attempt to enrollment and a mean of 10 outreach attempts. The offer for full payment of technical assistance fees and hardware yielded an additional 100 providers representing 43 practices, a 14.1% enrollment rate. This group also had the highest mean number of days from first attempt to enrollment (236.0 days) and the highest mean number of outreach attempts (22 attempts). The offer for a partial rebate had the lowest yield (a 6.2% enrollment rate), a mean of 169.3 days from first attempt to enrollment, and a mean number of 19 outreach attempts.
Conclusions: Because of diverse needs and levels of awareness in the EHR adoption process, a flexible milestone-based process is needed to engage primary care providers. In particular, community influence and additional funding were necessary for increasing enrollment among providers in medically underserved neighborhoods. These providers also required persistent and numerous follow-up attempts. Because billions of dollars in federal aid are being offered, effective local recruitment strategies are needed to facilitate provider engagement to increase EHR adoption rates.