Private practice physicians less likely to keep up with EHRs, research finds

Nearly half (49 percent) of private practice physicians attested to CMS' Meaningful Use EHR incentive program between 2011-16, while 70 percent of physicians working in both group practices and hospitals attested to meaningful use, according to a recent study published in Health Services Research.

CMS first introduced Meaningful Use of EHRs in 2009 as a voluntary program under the America Reinvestment and Recovery Act. Physicians and health systems that served Medicare and Medicaid patients and participated in the program were eligible to receive financial incentives, and in 2015, CMS began decreasing payments to providers if they did not adopt EHR Meaningful Use practices.

For the study, Nashville, Tenn.-based Vanderbilt University Medical Center researchers analyzed data on EHR use from more than 291,000 U.S. physicians between 2011-16. Results showed that around half of private practice physicians who participated in the EHR incentive program between 2011-13 left the program by 2015. In comparison, less than 20 percent of physicians who worked for hospitals left the program during the same time period.

Lead study author Jordan Everson, PhD, health policy assistant professor at VUMC, concluded that there are various potential reasons for lower participation rates in Meaningful Use among private physicians, such as independent physicians' have more power to decide whether they want to work the program than physicians belonging to other organizations who don't have a say in information technology management.

"Another way to interpret this is that the cost-benefit equation was worse for independent physicians," Dr. Everson said, according to a news release. "In other words, the financial incentives in later years were not enough to overcome the cost of keeping up with Meaningful Use in addition to the time burden of using EHRs. Financial costs are likely particularly high for independent physicians who can't spread the cost across a large organization."

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