Adoption of electronic health records in primary care pediatric practices

Alex R Kemper, Rebecca L Uren, Sarah J Clark
Pediatrics 2006, 118 (1): e20-4

BACKGROUND: Electronic health records may improve care delivery. Although professional organizations and federal agencies encourage widespread adoption, no national data are available regarding the penetration of electronic health records into primary care pediatric practices.

METHODS: We used a national mail survey of 1000 randomly selected primary care pediatricians conducted from August to November 2005.

RESULTS: The response rate was 58%. Overall, 21.3% of respondents had an electronic health record in their practice. The likelihood of having an electronic health record increased with practice size. Those in a practice network were more likely to have an electronic health record than those in other settings. Smaller and independent practices were less likely to be considering implementing an electronic health record. Although most electronic health records include some pediatric-specific functionality such as the ability to record immunizations, many do not offer decision support; only approximately one third included immunization prompts or alerts for abnormal laboratory results. Cost was a barrier for nearly all of those without an electronic health record; half of the respondents questioned whether electronic health records lead to improvement in quality of care, and many could not identify an electronic health record that would meet their practice requirements.

CONCLUSIONS: Electronic health records are concentrated in larger and networked pediatric practices. Smaller and independent pediatric practices, the most common types of practice, are unlikely to adopt electronic health records until the cost of implementing and maintaining the systems decreases, developing standards for interoperability are adopted, and electronic health records are widely perceived to improve quality of care by practicing general pediatricians. The lack of decision support in current electronic health records may limit the ability of these tools to improve care delivery.

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