Urban ambulatory providers struggle with EHR adoption

While it's often been reported that rural providers struggle with the adoption of electronic health records, physicians in many urban areas also experience their fair share of problems, according to a study published this week in Health Services Research.

The researchers--who examined information from more than 261,000 ambulatory healthcare sites throughout the 50 states and the District of Columbia in 2011--found that providers in large metropolitan areas actually were less likely to have implemented an EHR than their rural counterparts.

More specifically, they determined that providers in such areas with high-minority, low-income populations to be among the worst EHR adopters in the nation.

"This study validates that the cost of EHR implementation is still prohibitive in many communities despite efforts by the federal government to provide incentives," Jocelyn DeWitt, CIO at the University of Wisconsin Health in Madison, said in an announcement. DeWitt, who was not associated with the study, added that it's "incorrect to assume" that urban providers don't also struggle with implementation due to lack of resources.

A bill introduced in the House earlier this year aimed to ease some of the pain of EHR adoption for struggling providers in the Medicare incentive program by creating a hardship exemption from the program based on lack of capital and resources.

What's more, over the years, partnerships have been formed with the intention of helping providers in underserved areas adopt electronic health records to improve care quality. For instance, EHR vendor Emdeon and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services in December 2011 launched a year-long initiative in which Emdeon donated software and services to physicians in small practices in underserved communities in New Jersey.

To learn more:
- here's the study's abstract
- read the announcement