States show double digit increases in the use of electronic health records

The percent of physicians e-prescribing using an EHR has increased in all 50 states and in the District of Columbia, according to a new brief released by the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. In the brief, Meghan Hufstader, PhD; Matthew Swain, BBA; and Michael F. Furukawa, PhD discuss the growing trend of moving away from paper prescriptions and health records which are more prone to error, in favor of electronic health records. Electronic health records (EHR) and the health IT field in general have seen significant growth, backed by the support of the Obama administration and efforts to control costs in health care.

According to the report, twenty-three states had more than half of their physicians e-prescribing using an EHR on the Surescripts Network as of this year. This represents a double digit increase in the use of EHRs since 2008. Rural states like New Hampshire and North Dakota, are leading the pack in terms of adoption rates, which may speak to the cost savings and distance savings implications for less populated areas. As of 2008, North Dakota had 1% adoption of EHRs, that number now stands at approximately 30%.

The volume of new and renewal prescriptions submitted to pharmacies has increased ten-fold since 2008. In addition to prescriptions, states like Ohio are going all in on leveraging their university and hospital networks to create health IT networks in an effort to support economic growth and become national leaders in the field. In New York, the state’s eHealth collaborative is taking on the role of venture capitalist, seeding companies that will attract health IT jobs and improve patient service delivery in that state. At the national level, Veterans Affairs are launching initiatives like Blue Button which allow patients to download summaries of their treatments and see their own patient records online.

Yet there are some clouds on the horizon, as CivSource has reported, some companies are capitalizing on the newness of health IT to stake out sweeping patents on core features in order to force vendor relationships. The practice is common in other IT fields, with these companies becoming known as ‘patent trolls,’ and it appears that roster will also grow here, despite the necessity for rapid and wide reaching innovations in order to meet the needs of this high demand field.

Companies like MMRGlobal, with over 100 patent claims on file for their health IT products have claimed that they aren’t a troll, Chairman and CEO, Robert H. Lorsch noted in the firm’s last announcement that, “unlike patent trolling firms that seek to monetize another organization’s intellectual property, our patents cover services we currently offer to customers as part of our existing products. Our intellectual property is based upon our core business. We saw the opportunity to invent and protect a universally applicable Personal Health Record and other eHealth products and services many years ago when we started building them and took steps to protect our ideas globally.”

He left out in the same announcement that they are sending some 200 letters a week to doctors and health care providers that they may be in violation of these newly minted patents unless they develop vendor relationships.

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