EHR adoption gap between MU eligible, non-eligible hospitals 'growing'

Hospitals not eligible for the Meaningful Use program lag behind eligible hospitals in electronic health record adoption, creating a significant adoption gap continues to increase, according to a new study in Health Affairs.

The researchers, from Ohio State, Tulane and Indiana universities, studied EHR adoption from 2009 through 2013 in both acute-care hospitals, which are eligible for the Meaningful Use program, and by psychiatric, long-term care and rehabilitation hospitals, which are not eligible.

They found that while the percentage of adoption grew for all types of hospitals, there was a significant disparity in adoption rates, and that the disparity was growing larger. For example, while in 2009 11.8 percent of eligible hospitals and less than 10 percent of each of the ineligible hospitals had adopted a basic EHR, by 2013, 58.5 percent of eligible hospitals had at least a basic EHR, but only 20 percent of rehabilitation hospitals, about 17 percent of long-term care hospitals and less than 10 percent of psychiatric hospitals had done so. Not surprisingly, eligible hospitals also had higher rates of those who could meet Stage 1 of the Meaningful Use program and participated in health information exchanges.

While the fact that adoption by non-eligible hospitals increased at all was "promising," the researchers warned that the benefits of EHR adoption will remain limited so long as non-eligible hospitals were not included in health IT policy efforts.

Other studies have shown that providers not part of the Meaningful Use program are less likely to adopt EHRs, even though payment reform is moving them in that direction.

Lawmakers over the years have attempted to add different provider types to the incentive program.

Last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced it is updating guidance on the 90 percent matching rate for state expenditures related to promotion of health information exchange. Subject to CMS prior approval, states may be able to claim 90 percent HITECH match for expenditures related to connecting eligible providers to other Medicaid providers, including behavioral health providers, substance abuse treatment providers, long-term care providers (including nursing facilities), home health providers, pharmacies, laboratories, correctional health providers, emergency medical service providers, public health providers and other Medicaid providers, including community-based Medicaid providers.

To learn more:
- read the study abstract