More Solo Practices Embrace EHRs

Medical practices of one or two physicians are the fastest growing adopters of electronic health records (EHRs), according to an ongoing study.

American Medical News recently reported  EHR adoption in one-physician practices has increased by more than 6 percent, to 36.9 percent, since July 2011. Jack Schember of SK&A, which has been tracking this data for three years, told amednews, “Typically, it’s been the larger practices that have led the bunch, because they’ve had the most support and most wherewithal, so this growth really is significant.” Nearly 55 percent of 240,281 practices are solo, SK&A says.

Schember told amednews that meaningful use incentives and all of the resources the federal government makes available to help small practices, such as funding regional extension centers, have played a role. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), a provision of the 2009 economic stimulus package, allows practices to earn up to $44,000 per physician over five years from Medicare or nearly $64,000 over six years from Medicaid if they show meaningful use of EHRs.

“The physicians are realizing through meaningful use there is reimbursement and there is light at the end of the tunnel for them, particularly with the smaller practices,” Schember said. “Because they are one- and two-doctor practices, this money means a lot to them.”

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Growth rate for EHR adoption in large practices has slowed. Adoption in practices with 26 or more physicians, which make up only 1 percent of medical practices, only grew 1.7 percent in the same period. Overall, practices increased EHR adoption from 40.4 percent to 45.6 percent in the six-month period.
SK&A’s breakdown of adoption is shown here:
Percent of EHR adoption
Number of physicians at site July 2011 January 2012
One physicians 30.8% 36.9%
Two physicians 41.6% 47.1%
Three to five physicians 51.0% 54.9%
Six to 10 physicians 63.0% 64.9%
11 to 25 physicians 71.6% 74.0%
26 or more 75.5% 77.2%

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