Physicians Plunging into EMRs, But Expect Lots of Help

Rick Johnson, March 2, 2010

It's no secret that the vast majority of office-based physicians don't have EMR technology. Estimates vary because of conflicting definitions about what constitutes an EMR, but it's safe to say that less than 20% have a fully-functioning system in their practices.


This is despite years of EMR vendors, consultants, and a few early adopter advocates pushing and prodding physicians to come on board. Those plugs are common at healthcare conferences, but the message and tone feels different at this year's HIMSS conference.

Perhaps that's because the federal government's carrot-and-stick incentives through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are finally convincing physicians to act.

And if the latest survey report of physicians proves correct, droves of small physician practices are going to try to install EMRs very soon. Accenture's Innovation Center for Health and Institute for Health & Public Service Value worked with Harris Interactive to survey 1,000 U.S. physicians from practices of fewer than 10 practitioners to measure their views of EMRs. Approximately 15% of respondents were users of EMRs and 85% were non-users.

Of non-EMR users, 58% say they intend to purchase an EMR system within the next two years. Of those physicians under the age of 55, 80% plan to make a purchase within two years.

Accenture is releasing the survey report today at the HIMSS conference in Atlanta, GA, and on its Web site, Here are a few other interesting findings from the report:

  • Three-quarters of non-users are intrigued by the idea of purchasing an EMR system from a local hospital—if the purchase is at least partially subsidized by the hospital.
  • On average, non-users would expect a hospital/health network to subsidize about half the cost of an EMR system.
  • The key driver of EMR adoption is federal legislation—61% cited federal penalties for non-adoption and 51% cited federal incentives.
  • Non-users underestimate the cost and time requirements to implement an EMR system, but also have an exaggerated perception of difficulties in using EMR systems, compared to the actual experiences of EMR users.

Poring over the findings of this latest report on EMR adoption, there are themes that are being echoed by HIMSS attendees. More physicians than originally expected are planning on adopting EMRs and they are less likely to have experience with the technology, but their expectations are higher than those of early adopters. They want IT vendors to make the install seamless, and they want highly functional systems:

  • 67% expect the EMR to "improve the ease and accuracy of billing"
  • 62% expect the EMR to make it "easier to order and view imaging and test results"
  • 61% expect the EMR to make them paperless
  • 59% expect the EMR to "improve medication management"
  • 57% expect the EMR to allow the practice to "connect and communicate directly with EMR systems in other practices and hospitals"
  • 55% expect the EMR to "improve care coordination with other providers"
  • 51% expect the EMR to "improve patient care"

It's too early to tell if these sky-high expectations are unreasonable, but if current EMR technology could really do all this, we shouldn't have needed the ARRA to motivate physicians into action.

Rick Johnson Rick Johnson is the Editorial Director for HealthLeaders Media. He may be reached at

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