This study exploited the unique opportunity to compare estimates of electronic health record (EHR) and specific health information technology (HIT) use for clinical activities by office-based physicians using data from two contemporaneous, nationally representative physician surveys: the 2008 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS) and the 2008 Health Tracking Physician Survey (HTPS). Survey respondents included 4,117 physicians from the HTPS and 1,187 physicians from the NAMCS. We compared the survey designs and national estimates of EHR and specific HIT use for clinical activities in the two surveys and conducted multivariate analyses examining physician and practice characteristics associated with the adoption of "basic" or "fully functional" systems. The surveys asked nearly identical questions on EHR use. Questions on specific HIT use for clinical activities overlapped but with differences. National estimates of all-EHR use were similar (HTPS 24.31 percent, 95 percent confidence interval [CI]: 22.99-25.69 percent vs. NAMCS 27.24 percent, 95 percent CI: 23.53-31.29 percent), but partial EHR use (i.e., part paper and part electronic) was higher in the HTPS than in the NAMCS (23.93 percent, 95 percent CI: 22.61-25.30 percent vs. 18.40 percent, 95 percent CI: 15.62-21.54 percent in the NAMCS). Both surveys reported low use of "fully functional" systems (HTPS 7.84 percent, 95 percent CI: 7.03-8.73 percent vs. NAMCS 4.56 percent, 95 percent CI 3.09-6.68 percent), but the use of "basic" systems was much higher in the HTPS than in the NAMCS (22.29 percent vs. 11.16 percent). Using multivariate analyses, we found common physician or practice characteristics in the two surveys, although the magnitude of the estimated effects differed. In conclusion, use of a "fully functional" EHR system by office-based physicians was low in both surveys. It may be a daunting task for physicians, particularly those in small practices, to adopt and achieve "meaningful use" in the next two years.
Keywords: electronic health records; health information technology; physician survey.