By Howard Anderson

Only 1.5 percent of U.S. hospitals have a “comprehensive electronic records system” implemented across all their major clinical units, according to a new survey of nearly 3,000 U.S. hospitals. Some 7.6 percent of hospitals have a “basic” system in place, the study concludes.

Results of the study were published in the March 26 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. The study was funded by grants from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. David Blumenthal, M.D., who was recently named to head ONC within the Department of Health and Human Services, was one of the authors.

The study’s definition of a “comprehensive” records system lists 24 functions that must be in use throughout a hospital, while a “basic” system has eight functions in use in at least one clinical unit.

“The very low levels of adoption of electronic health records in U.S. hospitals suggest that policymakers face substantial obstacles to the achievement of health care goals that depend on health information technology,” the study concludes. “A policy strategy focused on financial support, interoperability and training of technical support staff may be necessary to spur adoption of electronic records systems in U.S. hospitals.”

The recently approved economic stimulus package provides more than $19 billion for health care I.T. That includes $17.2 billion in Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments to hospitals and clinics using electronic health records.

Other survey results include:

  • The most common barriers to electronic systems were inadequate capital (74 percent), concerns about maintenance costs (44 percent) and resistance among physicians (36 percent).
  • 12 percent of hospitals have instituted electronic physicians’ notes across all clinical units.
  • 17 percent have implemented computerized physician order entry enterprisewide.
  • More than 75 percent have electronic laboratory and radiologic reporting systems.

To read the full report, “Use of Electronic Health Records in U.S. Hospitals,” visit

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