Study: US Hospitals Won’t Have EHRs at Full Capacity Until 2035

Hospitals in the United States are still decades away from implementing more comprehensive electronic health records (EHRs) featuring sophisticated decision support applications and interoperability functionalities equivalent to stage 7 of HIMSS Analytics’ EHR adoption model. This was the conclusion reached by researchers looking to forecast the maturation and adoption rates of EHRs through the year 2035. The results of their work were published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

The investigators noted that while the “meaningful use” EHR Incentive Program successfully resulted in the broad adoption of electronic records, and studies have borne those numbers out, previous studies haven’t looked at whether hospitals are using advanced functionalities. Nor have these studies, according to researchers, tried to predict use and growth for an extended period of time.

To study the functionality and sophistication of EHR systems currently in use, researchers used the HIMSS Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model (EMRAM) data set. EMRAM incorporates methodology and algorithms to automatically score hospitals around the world relative to their Electronic Medical Records (EMR) capabilities. This eight-stage (0-7) model measures the adoption and utilization of EMR functions, according to HIMSS. This model measures, among other things, the extent to which hospitals use EHR features such as integrated device encryption or smart infusion pumps.

According to the findings, investigators forecast that the majority of hospitals will not reach Stage 7 until 2035, absent major policy changes or leaps in technological capabilities.

“These results indicate that US hospitals are decades away from fully implementing sophisticated decision support applications and interoperability functionalities in electronic health records as defined by EMRAM’s Stage 7,” they wrote.

Mary Butler is the associate editor at Journal of AHIMA.

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