A recent NEJM study of US family doctors shows that just 4% are using Electronic Medical Records (EMR) systems fully (13% using a basic system). This compares to 60% of family doctors in New Zealand. (Update: The Commonwealth Fund survey gives a figure of 92% of NZ family doctors using EMR systems – it also gives a figure of 28% of US doctors).
Background Electronic health records have the potential to improve the delivery of health care services. However, in the United States, physicians have been slow to adopt such systems. This study assessed physicians’ adoption of outpatient electronic health records, their satisfaction with such systems, the perceived effect of the systems on the quality of care, and the perceived barriers to adoption. Methods In late 2007 and early 2008, we conducted a national survey of 2758 physicians, which represented a response rate of 62%. Using a definition for electronic health records that was based on expert consensus, we determined the proportion of physicians who were using such records in an office setting and the relationship between adoption and the characteristics of individual physicians and their practices.
Results Four percent of physicians reported having an extensive, fully functional electronic-records system, and 13% reported having a basic system. In multivariate analyses, primary care physicians and those practicing in large groups, in hospitals or medical centers, and in the western region of the United States were more likely to use electronic health records. Physicians reported positive effects of these systems on several dimensions of quality of care and high levels of satisfaction. Financial barriers were viewed as having the greatest effect on decisions about the adoption of electronic health records.
Conclusions Physicians who use electronic health records believe such systems improve the quality of care and are generally satisfied with the systems. However, as of early 2008, electronic systems had been adopted by only a small minority of U.S. physicians, who may differ from later adopters of these systems.