CDC: EHR use by EDs, outpatient departments progressing

Electronic health record use is increasing in hospital emergency and outpatient departments, according to a new data brief issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics.

The February 2015 data brief evaluated EHR use using the annual National Hospital Ambulatory Medicare Care Survey (NHAMCS). The CDC found that use of EHRs in emergency departments increased 84 percent from 2006 to 2011, and from 29 to 73 percent in outpatient departments. Adoption of a basic EHR with a specific set of functionalities increased from 9 percent to 57 percent in outpatient departments from 2007 to 2011, and from 19 to 54 percent in emergency departments.

In 2011, 14 percent of emergency departments and 16 percent of outpatient departments had EHR technology able to support nine Stage 1 Meaningful Use measures.   

Interestingly, the data brief states that the study is limited since it "overestimates hospital readiness" because NHAMCS only measures nine of 14 objectives; to receive incentive payments, hospitals attesting to Stage 1 of Meaningful Use need to meet 14 core objectives and five of the menu objectives.   

What the data brief does not address is some of the other limitations of the study, such as the fact that it only evaluated data through 2011, even though the NHAMCS survey is annual; why it didn't use more recent data; or how such old data would be useful. In contrast, a CDC data brief issued January 2014 about EHR use by physicians used a similar annual survey and analyzed data from 2013, making that data brief more current.

The hospital data brief also downplays the fact that EHR use would invariably increase in 2011, and that hospitals would begin to meet the Meaningful Use objectives because that was the first year the program went into effect.  

To learn more:
- read the data brief (.pdf)