Younger docs not necessarily more likely to embrace EHRs

While conventional wisdom holds that younger physicians might be more likely to adopt electronic health records, that's not necessarily the case, according to a recent study from Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

The research found that older doctors who are clinically busier and see more complex patients were more likely to use new EHR tools than younger ones. For the study, new EHR-based tobacco treatment functionality was analyzed. Of 207 clinicians who had access to the functionality, staff physicians were more likely than trainees to use it, clinicians who graduated more than 10 years prior were more likely to use it compared to those who graduated less than 10 years prior. What's more, clinicians with higher patient volumes were more likely to use the functionality compared to those with smaller volumes.

Additionally, physicians who saw patients with a high rate of documented health issues were more likely to use the tools when compared to clinicians whose patients had less complex health problems.

"It is important to understand the characteristics of clinicians who are either more or less likely to use newer EHR functionality. This understanding could aid developers and health system leaders in more efficiently targeting design and implementation efforts," Jeffrey Linder, lead author of the paper, said in a press release.

The study was derived from a 2009 investigation that tested if new EHR tools addressing patient tobacco use--including smoking status icons, tobacco treatment reminders and new forms--would improve smoking status documentation and increase counseling assistance and medication prescriptions to smokers.

"We were surprised to discover that the older physicians were likely to adopt and use new technology in the EHR," Linder said. "Avoiding assumptions about who will use new functionality will be important in ensuring an increase in the use of these new functionalities and will contribute to the quality gains promised by the use of EHRs."

To learn more: 
- read the press release 
- here's an abstract of the study
- check out the original investigation (.pdf)