EHR adoption by qualified health centers up 'significantly,' but new disparities emerge

While electronic health record adoption by federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) has increased "significantly" and known disparity gaps have narrowed, new disparities have arisen, according to a new article in Health Affairs.

The study, by Emily Jones and Michael Furukawa--both with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT when the article was written and now working in different areas of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services--examined 2010-2012 administrative data from the Health Resources and Services Administration's Uniform Data System for more than 1,100 health centers.

They found a sharp uptick in adoption, with 90 percent having adopted an EHR and 49.5 percent reporting capabilities that met the criteria for a basic system in 2012, up from 64.8 percent and 29.7 percent, respectively, in 2010. The extent of EHR use also grew, with 79.3 percent reporting use by all sites and providers, up from 50.7 percent in 2010.

There were still inequalities, however. While differences in adoption by FQHCs in rural areas and with higher proportions of minority patients had "disappeared" since 2010, new disparities were evident in 2012 in that larger centers, those with fewer patients below the federal poverty level and ones in the Midwest, had higher adoption rates.

The study also revealed that while the centers were in good shape for meeting Stage 1 of Meaningful Use, some capabilities needed for Stage 2 had relatively low levels of adoption, particularly in the areas of public and population health.  

The authors recommended targeting assistance to groups falling behind and focusing efforts on capabilities with "slower uptake."

Others studies have revealed that some hospitals are struggling to meet Meaningful Use, raising concerns about whether they'll lead to care disparities. The American Hospital Association has noted that many hospitals will have trouble meeting the heightened requirements of Stage 2 without more flexibility in the incentive program.

To learn more:
- read the abstract