Incentives seen as a spark for EHR expansion in field

Electronic health record use in nursing homes is at an all-time high, but health information technology adoption in long-term care is still lagging behind other healthcare sectors, according to a study led by researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College at Cornell University.

Investigators surveyed 630 New York state nursing homes between February and May of 2013 about the facility's EHR adoption and health information exchange participation. They found that nearly 56% of survey respondents had adopted EHRs, an increase of nearly 8% since 2012. Compared to national data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, nursing homes still lag behind other healthcare sectors: In 2013, more than 78% of office-based physicians had adopted EHR. Among hospitals nationally, rates of adoption of at least a basic EHR system have nearly tripled since 2010.

One of the biggest federal policies affecting the nation's HIT adoption is the EHR Incentive Program, which provides payments to hospitals and providers who use EHRs. The program helps cover the costs of purchasing and maintaining EHRs, as well as implementation and training challenges, and has resulted in tremendous increases in EHR adoption. Those facilities that invest in EHRs have also reported many benefits, including improved information access, more accurate documentation, increased adherence to evidence-based guidelines and improved employee satisfaction and retention.

Yet, despite its growing population of medically complex patients, the long-term care sector has been excluded from this federal incentive program, notes Erika Abramson, M.D., the study's lead author.

“We would strongly encourage the development of federal policies incentivizing adoption of health information technology in the nursing home sector,” she say