Why EHR Adoption Rates Vary Across Certain Specialties

In January, CMS reported that more than half of eligible professionals have received their incentive payments for demonstrating meaningful use of a certified EHR. However, a recent joint study from CareCloud and QuantiaMD holds a microscope over private practices, showing EHR adoption rates differ significantly across specialties.

The Practice Profitability Index (PPI), a survey created to provide a voice to physicians regarding their concerns about issues affecting their financial and operational wellbeing, could provide us with a few insights as to why some specialties lag behind others.

What Do Cardiologists Have that Psychiatrists Don’t?
Sure, cardiologists have plenty of heart, but psychiatrists aren’t exactly ‘tin men’ of Wizard of Oz lore. Yet, according to the PPI, cardiologists lead the way among specialties with an 82% EHR adoption rate.

Figures point to cardiologist’s extensive history of using computers for treatment as the main driver.

For decades, cardiovascular specialists have used computers to record and display the vital signs and lab work of hospitalized patients, not to mention their longtime use of digital electrocardiograms and arrhythmia monitoring systems.

It seems the technological foundation required for the practice of cardiology has eased the transition to electronic record platforms.

Psychiatrists, on the other hand, report only a 56% EHR adoption rate across the board.

Because behavioral health care providers are excluded from participating in the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive programs, they tend to be more limited than other specialties in their ability to adopt health information technologies. The perceived financial hindrance of adopting an EHR without the help of incentive payments causes them to abstain.

A Burdened Specialty
Out of all physician specialties studied, OB/GYNs tend to be the most burdened by government demands for EHR adoption. 33% of gynecologists surveyed in the PPI cited EHR adoption requirements as the primary factor negatively affecting profitability in the coming year.

This must be due to the difficulty of documenting and analyzing OB-GYN data from EHRs brought on by the need to balance acute health information with pregnancy visits and progress. Therefore, in order to boost OB-GYN EHR adoption rates, vendors must focus on gynae-specific templates that can be molded to specific patients and track the unique needs of pregnant women.

According to the PPI study, of the practices planning operational improvements in the coming year, the leading advancements are implementing a new EHR (41%) and replacing existing EHRs (25%). Hopefully, these strides toward improvement will raise adoption rates across all 24 AMA recognized medical specialties.

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