Cost Barriers Slow Adoption of Electronic Health Records

But government intervention and funding could quickly spur improvement
By Jeff Muise
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- Citing cost barriers, relatively few U.S. hospitals have adopted electronic health records, posing a major obstacle for policy makers who say health information technology is critical to the improvement of health care quality and cost-effectiveness, according to an article published online March 25 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Ashish K. Jha, M.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues quantified electronic health records adoption in a survey of member hospitals of the American Hospital Association. Of the 63.1 percent of hospitals responding, only 1.5 percent had comprehensive electronics records systems in all clinical units, 7.6 percent had a basic system in at least one clinical unit, and 17 percent had computerized provider-order systems for medications. The authors note that survey respondents said the cost of capital equipment and system maintenance were the chief obstacles to adoption of electronic health records.

However, the impetus and the funding for needed change may be coming, according to the authors of two accompanying commentaries. President Barack Obama has set a goal of computerizing all medical records within five years, and his economic stimulus package includes $19 billion for health information technology, the authors note.

"Many institutions have parts of an electronic-records system in place, suggesting that policy interventions could increase the prevalence of electronic health records in U.S. hospitals faster than our low adoption levels might suggest," Jha and colleagues write.

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