Survey: MU incentives top motivator for EMR adoption at small practices

Federal incentives appear to be having the desired effect at the small-practice level, ramping up meaningful use of certified EHR/EMR technology, according to results of a survey released Jan. 9 by Practice Fusion, a company that offers a free web-based EMR to physicians. The report indicated that the incentives, administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, were the strongest motivator for adopting EMR technology among surveyed medical professionals.

The desire to use technology to improve patient care ranked second among motivators for EMR adoption among survey respondents.

[See related commentary: The little business model that could: Smaller practices outlast, relate]

Practice Fusion conducted the State of the Small Practice study via Internet survey with a national sample of more than 1,000 practices gathered through the company’s platform. Medical providers were asked to provide responses to a series of multiple choice survey questions based on the previous year’s data.

Sixty-three (63) percent of survey respondents said new technologies like EMR made things easier in their practices. However, those doctors also reported feeling more confusion around the meaningful use incentives than in years prior -- possibly due to heightened Stage 2 requirements.

Forty-five (45) percent of surveyed doctors reported that their practice fared better in Practice Fusion's 2013 report than in 2012, possibly reflecting an improving economy and the influence of EMR incentives. While the majority of remaining doctors reported no change, 16 percent reported that their practice is doing worse – about a 2 percent increase from the 2012 survey.

Here's a synopsis of additional key findings from the 2013 survey:

  • Doctors reported more confusion about meaningful use this year, with 46 percent of doctors claiming “moderate expertise” in 2013 (a 16 percent drop from 2012) and 50 percent (a 6.5 percent increase from last year) claiming “little” or “no” understanding.
  • Meeting meaningful use deadlines was the main motivation for EMR adoption (55 percent), followed by improving care through new technologies (45 percent) and excitement around adopting a new technology (39 percent).
  • Most computers used today in doctors’ offices are 1-2 years old (41 percent), but some practices continue to hold on to older machines -- 4 percent of doctors’ computers are 6 years or older, compared to 3 percent in 2012.
  • Among doctors’ chief complaints, insurance and reimbursement were ranked highest, followed by practice management costs and administrative burdens.

“Small medical practices are critical as the first line of care,” said Ryan Howard, CEO of Practice Fusion, in a press release accompanying release of the survey findings. “As these practices struggle for survival in a turbulent time, we see it as Practice Fusion’s duty to do everything we can to empower them to adopt and utilize new, lifesaving technologies. With an estimated $100 million paid to our doctors so far, it’s clear we’re on the right track."

Highlights of the 2012 survey are available here. Highlights from the 2011 survey are available here.