More than three-fourths of doctor offices now have an electronic patient records system. But in comparison the number of doctor offices and group practices that send and receive electronic patient information with other healthcare organizations is much smaller, says a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In 2015 77.9% of all physician’s offices had an electronic patient records system, up from 74.1% in 2014, says the CDC, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. But of the group of 10,302 physicians the CDC uses to formulate its group practice automation numbers, only 38.2% of all doctor offices sent patient information electronically to other organizations and only 38.3% electronically received such information.
The number of doctor offices and group practices that have integrated their automated medical records systems with other electronic healthcare information networks, databases and portals is even less at 31%, says the CDC. The range of how doctor groups in individual states share electronic patient data also varies widely, according to the CDC. In Arizona 56.3% of all physician groups send out automated patient medical records to others compared with just 19.4% in Idaho.
65.5% of doctor offices in Wisconsin received outside electronic patient records compared with 23.6% in Louisiana and Mississippi.
Doctor offices in Delaware had the most integrated electronic patient records systems (49.3%) while doctor locations in Alaska had the least (18.4%).
There are several factors impacting why doctor offices and group practices aren’t doing more networking of their electronic health records systems, says Kaveh Safavi, Accenture senior managing director for global healthcare business. There are the technical requirements that many doctor offices need to address before being able to link their electronic medical records systems to outside parties, he says.
Despite the fact that there are many electronic networking universal messaging standards that are available for use, many medical records terms aren’t standard and doctors may code electronic medical records information differently. The means the data itself isn’t standardized for more universal sharing, Safavi says.
But the biggest obstacles to more doctors sharing electronic patient records information with other healthcare organizations are business-oriented, Safavi says.
For instance, the return on investment for buying and operating an internal-only electronic medical records system may be more obvious to administrators, doctors and staff for running the business, but a group practice may not want to incur the costs of sending and receiving electronic patient information with other parties because they can’t see the immediate value, Safavi says.
Consolidation is another factor. Many group medical practices are now being acquired by larger health systems, and once part of a larger hospital network with an internal medical records system links practices to all the clinicians and other hospital departments, practices may not see the value of further outside networking.
“There have been technical and business issues that are long standing,” he says. “Progress has been incremental.”
But as healthcare becomes more consumer-focused, technical and web integration become easier and healthcare industry payment policies change to require more outside networking, more universal patient record data record sharing between doctor offices and the broader healthcare industry will occur, Safavi says.
“My forecast is that in two to five years will see a lot more progress,” he says.