- The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act’s meaningful use incentive program spurred a big surge in hospital EHR adoption, a new analysis in Health Affairs concludes.
- The researchers looked at national hospital data before and after the program’s implementation and found annual gains in EHR use at eligible hospitals went from 3.2% before meaningful use to 14.2% after. By contrast, increases at ineligible hospitals went from 0.1% to 3.3%.
- The findings suggest HITECH could be a model for driving adoption of other novel technologies, the authors say.
The researchers caution that the law has not been a complete success. “Real challenges remain, particularly in the domains of interoperability and usability,” they write. “Nonetheless, speeding the national timeline of hospitals’ EHR adoption was a key first step toward digitizing the health care system and facilitating the transition to paying for value.”
They note EHR adoption among eligible hospitals grew by eight percentage points per year from 2010 to 2015, pushing hospitals past the halfway point. “There are likely very few other policies that have driven such substantial change in such a short period,” the authors add.
However, while HITECH and meaningful use appear to have ramped up adoption of meaningful use, it may not account for all the gain, the researchers note. Some of hospitals’ success with the program could be because the EHR market was more mature than the market for ambulatory EHR products, they say. Hospitals may have an organizational advantage over physicians in understanding and responding to complex incentive programs like meaningful use, they add.
In 2015, 96% of nonfederal acute care hospitals possessed a certified EHR and 84% had at least a basic EHR system, according to a survey released last year by Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT. The survey also showed eight out of 10 small, rural and critical access hospitals had basic EHR, but adoption lagged in children’s and psychiatric hospitals.
For all states, basic EHR adoption rates in 2015 were over 65%, or about six in 10 hospitals.