Preliminary results from an annual national survey of office-based physicians show 43.9% of respondents reported using some level of electronic health records systems in their practices in 2009, up almost 6% from 41.5% reporting EHR use in 2008.

The annual increase in usage was considerably higher for those using software that met the criteria for a "basic" EHR and a "fully functional" system. Some 20.5% reported using a basic EHR in 2009, up 23% from 16.7% in 2008; use of a fully functional system rose from to 6.3% from 4.4%, a 43% gain.

The National Center for Health Statistics, an agency of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, conducts the annual National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, which covers a range of issues. Systems defined as basic EHRs display patient demographic information, problem lists, clinical notes, orders for prescriptions, and laboratory and imaging results. Fully functional systems also include medical history and follow-up, orders for tests, prescription and test orders electronically sent, warnings of drug interactions or contraindications, highlighting of out-of-range test results, and reminders for guideline-based interventions.

The annual survey includes mail and in-person surveys. Preliminary 2009 results reflect only respondents to the mailed survey. More information is available at cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/emr_ehr/emr_ehr.pdf.

--Joseph Goedert

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