Mass. HIT survey shows high rates of EHR adoption; enthusiastic public

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 - LauranceStuntz
Laurance Stuntz

BOSTON—Created in 2008, the Massachusetts eHealth Institute (MeHI) is charged with determining how to most effectively spend the state’s $28 million budget earmarked to support EHR adoption and coordinate healthcare innovation, technology and competition.

The organization conducted a health IT survey to garner adoption, challenges and opinions of Massachusetts providers, said Laurance Stuntz, director, at the 2014 AMDIS Fall Symposium. “We want to know how to start to leverage the next ‘blockbuster drug’ which is consumers engaged in their own healthcare.”

The 2014 survey focused not on hospitals but on practices and individual consumers and offered numerous findings.

Among practices with five or more providers, 90 percent of primary care providers have implemented EHRs compared with 86 percent of specialists. These providers see significant benefits to using EHRs, Stuntz reported. The majority (92 percent) said they facilitate communication of patient information among care team members; 80 percent said they reduce errors; 82 percent said they improve quality of care; and 75 percent said they enable better decision making.

Those patients with chronic comorbidity as well as a mental health condition are seven times more expensive than those with just a chronic disease. Massachusetts is spending a lot of time and money on long-term care, he said. “We are well above average compared with other states and we’re not getting much benefit. We are No. 1 in per capita cost.”

EHR adoption by itself does not drive down cost. “As we get into exchange of information, there is some hope that will have an impact,” Stuntz said.

Although MeHI staff thought consumers would be nervous about health IT, the survey indicated that consumers are excited about it. While 69 percent said they are concerned about the privacy and security of their information, 76 percent said that electronic communication with physicians is easier; 87 percent said they are positive about sharing data with consent; 46 percent have asked a question electronically they would not have asked otherwise; and 78 percent believe that if all doctors used EHRs instead of paper records it would improve care.

About 200 organizations have signed up for the state highway, Stuntz said, which covers about 60 percent of the state population.

Going forward, “we need to support providers as they move beyond EHRs to information exchange,” he said. “There is a lot of work to be done. Let’s concentrate on interoperability. Let’s get that piece right. It will be interesting to see what actually comes out of Meaningful Use and how it evolves over the next couple of years.”