Massachusetts ahead of curve on EHR adoption as deadlines to connect to state HIE approach

Massachusetts has made significant progress implementing electronic health records systems and running its health information exchange, but much work remains, according to a provider and consumer health IT research study from the Massachusetts eHealth Institute.

The institute, responsible for the adoption of health IT in the state, is working to prepare providers for two state-mandated deadlines.

By Jan. 1, 2015, demonstrated proficiency in health IT will be a requirement to renew a physician's license. And all providers must fully implement interoperable EHR systems that connect to the Massachusetts Health Information Highway (Mass HIway), the state health information exchange, by Jan. 1, 2017.

Recently the state doled out $23 million in grants to help healthcare organizations connect.

So far, nearly 80 percent of providers say they use EHRs and 50 percent of consumers indicated they have used health IT to directly communicate with their doctor, review test results, renew prescriptions or schedule appointments, according to the study.

EHR adoption, however, varies by practice area. Ninety-six percent of primary care practices report using EHRs, while that number falls to 55 percent in behavioral health and long-term care.

Other findings:

  • 78 percent of consumers said they believe EHR use improves care, and 85 percent are comfortable with electronic storage of health information at their provider's practice
  • While 61 percent of providers say they have discussed health IT with their patients, only 24 percent of patients say so, suggesting opportunities for practices to ensure patients understand what is happening with their electronic information, the paper states
  • Only 26 percent of healthcare practices share information via health information exchanges or other electronic networks. Most external digital information-sharing has been for electronic prescriptions and public health reporting
  • Thirty-one percent of practices using EHRs indicated interest in technical assistance or training to help them with areas such as patient engagement, workflow redesign, Meaningful Use measures and security risk assessment.

To learn more:
- read the report (.pdf)