Despite government incentives, EMR adoption by US physicians remains “sluggish” – but wait, there’s more!

imageYou can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. That certainly seems to be case when it comes to getting more physicians in America to start using electronic medical records. Even with significant financial incentives offered by the federal government to physicians who implement and “meaningfully use” a certified electronic medical record solution, the uptake has been at best, “slow but steady”. So says a fascinating report published recently by UBM Medica US’s Physicians Practice in their 8th annual survey of physicians and administrators on their use of imagetechnology. The survey suggests that physician use of electronic records has grown steadily in recent years, but the stimulus package incentives that were expected to jump-start docs to full adoption aren’t really working all that well. The survey also shows, not surprisingly, that most physician adoption has come by way of hospital acquisition of physician practices or partnership arrangements, and that physicians remain critical of electronic record cost and usability.

The poor showing for electronic record use by American physicians has been a recurring theme here on HealthBlog. Going back a half dozen years I’ve commented from time to time on the fact that America lags behind most other industrialized nations in physician use of EMR solutions. A significant uptick has been noticeable over the past couple of years as the US Government got on the bandwagon (via the HITECH Act) and began offering financial incentives to help physicians offset the cost of EMR purchase. None-the-less, the latest survey shows how far we’ve yet to go before every doctor in America is using an EMR and all of our medical records are digital. The UBM Medica survey is easy on the eyes with lots of colorful graphics and relatively short narratives. It is definitely worth a read if you are the least bit interested in the topic. You can download a PDF copy of the report here.

imageI took note of the survey on the same day that Microsoft announced release dates for the widely anticipated, next version of Windows – Windows 8. At the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto today, Microsoft executives confirmed that Windows 8 will be generally available for new PCs sold in late October. The same timeframe applies to upgrades from earlier versions of Windows, although enterprise customers may have access to the new operating system even sooner.

Like perhaps many of you, I’ve been using an evaluation copy of Windows 8 on my work computer for the last couple of months. Overall, the performance has been awesome. I will admit that the new “Metro” start screen takes some time getting used to, especially if you are not using a touch-enabled tablet (my work PC is a Lenovo X201 laptop). However, after just a day or two of using Windows 8 it was clear to me that I would never go back. And , I love having all those cool new “apps” at my fingertips (or mouse clicks).

imageIt is also reassuring to see independent reviewers reporting on some significant performance improvements with Windows 8 compared to Windows 7, most noticeably boot time. Physicians and other clinicians have a need for speed, and Windows 8 delivers. Add to this all the excitement about Surface – Microsoft’s new tablet computer - and I get a sense that the landscape will be improving for physicians who may be dragging their feet on electronic medical record solutions. I say that because we are also working diligently with a number of EMR vendors who are highly motivated to take advantage of the new Windows 8 operating system and it’s more flexible user experience (and cool new devices) to offer clinicians EMR solutions that not only look and perform better, but frankly are a better fit with clinical workflow. So, if you are one of the 30 to 50 percent of clinicians who are still sitting on the sidelines, take solace in the knowledge that EMR solutions for you and your practice will be getting much better soon.

Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft

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