One in four doctors used electronic record keeping for all of their work in 2012, up from just 4 percent in 2007, according to data released Tuesday from the National Center for Health Statistics.
Overall the number of doctors using an electronic health records system for all or part of their record keeping more than doubled during that time, to 72 percent.
"Those who are using it to the max, they are getting a lot more mileage out of use of EHR [electronic health records] and are able to use it to provide better care for their patients," said Esther Hing, a survey statistician at the National Center for Health Statistics.
Experts attribute the increase to a 2009 law that allows Medicare and Medicaid to pay doctors incentives for switching to electronic record keeping -- if they meet certain requirements. (As of January 2014, nearly 35,000 physicians in California have been paid $586 million through the incentive process.)
The end goal, said Hing, is to have a majority of doctors' record keeping fully computerized. Electronic record keeping allows doctors to tap into historical data, lab results and medication lists, as well as share their insights with specialists and other doctors, she said.
Primary care physicians have flocked to the electronic systems, younger doctors are big users and larger practices are computerizing their record keeping at a faster clip than smaller ones, added Hing.
Some highlights from the report:
- In 2012, 72 percent of office-based physicians reported using an EHR system, up from 35 percent in 2007.
- In 2012, 40 percent of physicians had an EHR system that met the criteria of a basic system (meaning they can use it for 6 or more functions), up from 12 percent in 2007.
- In 2012, 24 percent of physicians had a fully functional system ( can use it for all record keeping), up from 4 percent in 2007.
- While younger physicians use electronic record systems more often, the largest jump in use between 2007 and 2012 was among doctors 65 and older – from 19 percent to 54 percent.
- Two-thirds of primary care physicians used EHR in 2012.
- More female than male doctors used EHR in 2012, 76 percent versus 70 percent.