us2A wide geographic variation exists in the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) by ambulatory health care sites, according to a study in Health Services Research. The results of the study suggest that these variations range from a high of 88% to a low of 8%.

The Health Behavior News Service and Center for Advancing Health note that the study goes on to indicate that at the state level, the EHR adoption rate for ambulatory care sites exhibited a low of 27% in New Jersey to a high of 65% in Minnesota.

Researchers note that within states, EHR adoption rates ranged from at least 20 percentage points in 46 states and 50 percentage points in 17 of the states. The largest variations in adoption rates, the study reports, exist in California, Illinois, and Missouri. Delaware, the District of Columbia, and Wyoming had the smallest.

Jennifer King, PhD, chief of research and evaluation at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, lead author, acknowledges that when the study was conducted in 2011, there was a lower EHR adoption rate in underserved areas, including large metropolitan areas with high concentrations of minority and low income populations. However, King adds that small metropolitan and rural areas on average exhibited slightly higher EHR adoption rates.

Researchers sought to pinpoint a potential “digital divide” emerging in traditionally underserved areas. To accomplish this, data was gathered from 261, 973 ambulatory health care sites with 716,160 providers across 50 states and the District of Columbia. A recent news release states that the health care sites studied included small one-physician sites and large multi-physician practices.

The results suggest that in 2011, 43% of providers at ambulatory health care centers used an EHR with the ability to prescribe medication electronically. The researchers add that areas with high concentrations of minority and low income populations and large metropolitan areas were more likely than average to be in the lowest quartile of EHR adoption nationally.

As a result of the study, researchers emphasize that efforts to promote EHR use should place a primary focus on areas where traditionally underserved populations live in order to avoid exacerbating existing health disparities.

Source(s): Health Behavior News Service, Center for Advancing Health