Family Physicians in the Lead for Electronic Health Record Adoption

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, January 14, 2013

Leslie Champlin
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237, Ext. 5224

WASHINGTON — Family physicians are adopting electronic health records at a higher rate than other office-based physicians as a group and could surpass the 80 percent adoption threshold nationally by 2013, according to research in the January Annals of Family Medicine.

The research by the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care compared data from the American Board of Family Medicine recertification exam demographics and the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey data on office-based physician responses. They calculated EHR adoption rates for family physicians and all other physicians for years between 2005 and 2011.

The results found nearly 68 percent of family physicians have adopted EHRs in 2011, a rate that is “significantly higher than for other office-based physicians.” Fifty-five percent of non-family physicians have adopted EHRs, the research reported.

“We project that it could surpass an 80 percent threshold nationally by 2013 based on the current trend,” Imam Xierali, PhD, former Robert Graham Center health geographer, and his co-authors wrote. “Adoption by family physicians exceeds that of other office-based physicians as a group.”

Although nationwide EHR adoption rates by family physicians had more than doubled between 2005 and 2011, the researchers found variation from state to state. Rates reported by the ABFM survey ranged from a high of nearly 95 percent in Utah to a low of 47 percent in North Dakota. The researchers found similar variations among all other office-based physicians.

The causes for such variation among states and specialties is unknown, although the authors surmise that innovative HIT funding and various states’ commitment to prescription drug tracking and quality data reporting may have an impact. Other causes could include the extent to which integrated health systems or health maintenance organizations operate within a state.

The authors also cautioned that ABFM’s EHR survey question, although consistent throughout the study period, lacks a predetermined operational definition of an EHR and data about specific features, suggesting caution in assumptions about the capacities of adopted EHRs.

“Recognizing the limits of survey response and self-reported EHR use, this work nonetheless suggests that we have surpassed a critical threshold in EHR adoption in the wake of HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act),” said Andrew Bazemore, MD, MPH, director of the Robert Graham Center. “We must strengthen our focus on more effective strategies to ensure meaningful use and realization of the cost and quality benefits of EHRs. These analyses also point to select demographic and geographic targets that may continue to benefit from incentives and facilitators driving adoption.”


The Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Primary Care and Family Medicine conducts research and analysis that brings a family practice perspective to health policy deliberations in Washington. Founded in 1999, the center is an independent research unit working under the personnel and financial policies of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

The information and opinions contained in research from the Graham Center do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of the AAFP.

January 14, 2013