Physician use of electronic health records, or EHRs, to document patient health data and treatment outcomes and share that information with other clinicians varies significantly by medical specialty.

That’s according to new figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The figures are based on a survey of 10,302 doctors conducted by the CDC from August through December 2015. The increased use of EHRs is considered one of the key strategies to improve the quality and safety of patient care while tamping down rising health care costs.

The survey queried physicians in 14 specialties whether they have any type of EHR or electronic medical record system, whether they have a basic EHR system and whether they have a certified EHR system. A basic EHR system is one that can record patient medical histories and demographics, medical problems, physician clinical notes, and patient medication history and allergies. Using a basic system, a physician also can order prescriptions electronically and order and view laboratory and imaging tests and results electronically.

A certified EHR system is one that meets the government’s “meaningful use” criteria, which qualifies the physician’s practice to receive federal subsidies to offset the cost of buying, installing and operating an EHR system.
The medical specialty with the highest basic EHR system adoption rate—75.7 percent—was neurology. The medical specialty with the lowest basic EHR system adoption rate—15.5 percent—was psychiatry.

In general, primary-care specialties like a general/family practitioner, internist or pediatrician had higher basic EHR system adoption rates than specialists. According to the CDC survey, primary-care doctors had a 57.9 percent adoption rate compared with 51.1 percent for medical specialists and 48.5 percent for surgical specialists.

As previously reported in Twin Cities Business, doctors in Minnesota have higher EHR adoption rates than physicians nationally and do a better job of using their EHRs to share patient health information with other doctors, hospitals and clinicians. That piece urged employers to steer their employees to health care providers who electronically share patient health information with other providers to improve the coordination of patient care services and reduce the costly, duplicative and unnecessary use of health care services.

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