Are Doctors Buying EMR Systems for the Right Reasons?


The most recent CDC data of November 2011 shows that EMR adoption has crossed a psychological tipping point. Here’s a key finding:

In 2011, 57% of office-based physicians used electronic medical record/electronic health record (EMR/EHR) systems.

We need to go beyond the headlines and key findings to see what is really going on:




Some observations:

  1.  57% adoption is for “Any EMR/EHR System”
  2. “Basic EMR/EHR System” adoption is a much lower 33.9%
  3. While 2011 data for “Fully Functional System” is not yet available, projecting the 2010 trend lines indicate adoption rates in the low teens.

What is the reason for such a vast discrepancy between ‘any EMR’ and a ‘fully functional EMR’?

The short definition of a Fully Functional System: Systems that are used for a full work-flow related to a practice. When you consider the number of practices that utilize such systems, it is not surprising that the adoption rate is low.

Doctors do not seem to buy EMR for the right reasons – to increase efficiency of their ‘Enterprise’. They are just looking to get the incentive money under threats of decreased payment from CMS. Doctors are still skeptical. They fear that EMRs do not improve productivity. They doubt reports that indicate EMRs lead to better patient outcomes.

There is also a growing trend of subsidized EMRs under a relaxed Starks Law. Many doctors are afraid it will wrestle control of healthcare away from the doctor-patient relationship into the hands of third parties. They fear manipulation of EMR functionality to disable certain treatment options that doctors feel are best for their patients.

Doctors feel that hospitals or other large healthcare entity subsidized EMRs will become instruments by which they will be controlled and managed. They do not want to be told what diagnostic testing and therapies they should dispense.

Fully Functional EMR adoption is struggling because very few EMRs are designed by Physicians (rather than administrators and technologists). Good systems designed by Physicians focus on managing the Enterprise, making physicians and their staff more productive. Among other things, such systems:

  • Empower end users and patients

  • Helps the healthcare system become more efficient

  • Optimizes Doctors’ Practice Enterprise

Unless Doctors start looking for EMRs to help them solve real world problems and not focus on just incentives, the adoption rate of fully functional EMRs will continue to be low.