A history of EHRs: 10 things to know

To many hospitals and practitioners, EHR systems may seem like a new phenomenon that has rapidly taken over the market. To a degree, that is true — EHR implementation nearly doubled from 2007 to 2012, growing from 34.8 percent to more than 71 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, EHRs are not brand new, and they will become even more common as meaningful use penalties approach. Here are 10 facts about the history of EHRs.

1. The first EHRs appeared in the 1960s. By 1965, approximately 73 hospitals and clinical information projects and 28 projects for the storage and retrieval of medical documents and other clinical information were underway, according to HIMSS.

2. The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., was one of the first major systems to adopt an EHR, picking up the project in the early 1960s, according to the National Institutes of Health.

3. Eclipsys, which is now part of Allscripts, was invented for El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, Calif., in 1971 by the Lockheed Corp., according to AHIMA.

4. The EMRs of today first appeared in 1972 from the Regestrief Institute in Indianapolis but was so expensive that it did not spread among physicians. Instead, it was used by government hospitals, according to the University of Scranton in Scranton, Pa.

5. The federal government implemented an EHR in the Department of Veteran Affairs called the De-Centralized Hospital Computer Program and the Composite Health Care System in the Department of Defense in the 1970s, according to the American Medical Association. That system eventually became VistA.

6. Health Level 7 was founded in 1987 to address standardization issues as EHR development pushed forward. Today it has members in 55 countries, according to Greater Than One Labs, a New York City-based digital communication agency.

7. The Institute of Medicine set a goal in 1991 that all physicians would be using computers in their practice by 2000. It was not a law, however, and only 18 percent of physicians were using an EHR system in 2001, according to the ONC.

8. Interoperablity has been a concern since at least the mid-1990s, when a growing clinician user base made it necessary for systems to communicate with each other to effectively coordinate care, according to a 1997 book published by the Institute of Medicine, "The Computer-Based Patient Record: An Essential Technology for Health Care: Revised Edition."

9. The federal budget for healthcare IT projects doubled during President George W. Bush's presidency. In 2004, he issued an executive order creating the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology. There was also a call for a nationwide implementation of EHRs by 2014, according to the University of Scranton.

10. EHRs have carved a niche in medical liability law. Privacy breaches, printing errors and miscommunications have led to a spate of lawsuits, and the landscape of liability risks and benefits will vary as EHRs spread, according to a November 2010 article in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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