Only a small number of hospitals in the United States have comprehensive electronic health record systems currently in place. The biggest obstacle to adopting such systems are costs, which can run as high as $20 million to $100 million, plus the reluctance of doctors to change their ways. The report is published in the March online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Researchers questioned 3,049 US hospitals about their electronic health record systems. They found that only 1.5 percent had comprehensive systems. A comprehensive system was defined as hospital-wide clinical documentation of cases, test results, prescription and test ordering, plus support for decision-making that included treatment guidelines.
Eight percent of hospitals have electronic records that include physician and nursing notes, but these systems do not have decision support.
The new healthcare bill aims to change all that within the next five years, by offering incentives for implementing electronic medical records systems. Some see difficulties remaining, with the incentives falling way short of costs. In addition, it can take multiple years to implement a comprehensive system.