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EHR Use Surges at Health Centers

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, May 19, 2014

More than nine out of 10 federally qualified health centers reported having electronic health records systems in 2013 compared with 30% in 2009.

The adoption and use of electronic health records in federally qualified health centers has grown by 133% in the past five years, thanks in large part to targeted federal funding and incentives, a survey from The Commonwealth Fund shows.

The survey of 679 senior executives and clinicians at FQHCs found that 85% reported advanced HIT capabilities in 2013, which meant that they could perform at least nine of 13 functions, such as ordering pharmacy prescriptions electronically. The rate was 30% in 2009, when The Commonwealth Fund conducted its last survey.

The pace of HIT implementation at many FQHCs has accelerated to the point where it is outstripping that of many larger physicians groups or integrated health systems. In 2013, 78% percent of office-based physicians used electronic health records, up from 48% in 2009.

In addition, 93% of FQHCs have EHR systems compared with 78% for larger practices and 71% for integrated delivery systems. On meaningful use, three-quarters of FQHCs reported that they meet federal criteria, which is about the same proportion as large, non-physician-owned medical practices and integrated systems, The Commonwealth Fund reported.

Survey coauthor Melinda Abrams, The Commonwealth Fund's vice president for delivery system reform, credited the surge in HIT adoption and usage over the past five years to targeted federal funding and incentives put forward under the legislation such as the HITECH Act.

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