Study: Critical access hospitals less likely to adopt EHRs with patient engagement functions

Although the majority of hospitals have adopted EHRs, a "digital divide" has arisen between hospitals that have implemented advanced functions and those that have not, according to a study published in Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

The researchers — led by Julia Adler-Milstein, PhD, a public health and IT researcher at Ann Arbor-based University of Michigan — analyzed survey data from the American Hospital Association IT Supplement to determine "basic" and "comprehensive" EHR adoption. A "comprehensive" EHR included functions related to performance measurement and patient engagement.

Researchers found 80.5 percent of hospitals had adopted at least a basic EHR system, 5.3 percent more hospitals than in 2014. However, only 37.5 percent of hospitals had adopted at least eight of 10 functions related to performance measurement and 41.7 percent of hospitals had adopted at least eight of 10 functions related to patient engagement.

"While the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act resulted in widespread hospital EHR adoption, use of advanced EHR functions lags and a digital divide appears to be emerging, with critical-access hospitals in particular lagging behind," the study authors concluded.

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