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    More office-based docs using EHRs, survey says

    Almost 40 percent of office-based physicians are at least dipping their toes in the electronic health record waters, according to a government survey.

    From April through August 2008, the National Center for Health Statistics conducted a mail survey of 2,000 office-based physicians, with a response rate of 62 percent.

    Preliminary results, released in December, show 38.4 percent of respondents reported using full or partial EHR systems, up from 29.2 percent in 2006.

    An additional 20 percent reported using a "minimally functional" system (including ability to order prescriptions and tests, view laboratory or imaging results, and input clinical notes), up from 12.4 percent two years earlier.

    "Basic" systems, such as those that offer patient demographics and problem lists, clinical notes, labs, and imaging results, were reported by 17.4 percent of respondents.

    The results represent a signficant step forward for EHR implemenatation, says Joseph Scherger, MD, clinical professor of Family & Preventive Medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

    "They have reached a tipping point where widespread diffusion becomes inevitable," Scherger says. "Quality reporting, essential for expanding pay-for-performance programs, will require that physicians have EHRs." Within five years, Scherger predicts, "the great majority of physicians will have EHRs in place."

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