Nursing Homes Slow to Adopt Health IT

With a lack of financial incentives available to them, nursing homes have been slower to adopt health information technology (IT) like electronic health records (EHRs), according to a study from The American Journal of Managed Care.

From 2012 to 2013 there was only a 7.7 percentage point increase in EHR adoption among analyzed New York nursing homes, compared with a 15 percentage point increase among hospitals nationally. While 87% of all hospitals in 2013 reported receiving at least 1 meaningful use incentive payment from the government, the long-term care sector is not eligible for federal incentives.

However, there are currently more than 1.5 million residents in long-term care facilities and that number is expected to increase as the nation’s elderly population grows.

“These patients are medically complex, have high medical costs, and are frequently transferred to acute care hospitals,” the authors wrote. As a result, the long-term care sector has an urgent need to keep pace with health IT adoption.

During a survey of New York nursing homes from February to May 2013, the researchers found that the rate of EHR adoption was 56.3%, up from 48.6% in 2012. The rate of participation in a health information exchange (HIE) remained mostly unchanged year over year.

Cost was 2 of the top barriers to EHR adoption with 67.9% of respondents citing the initial cost of health IT investment and 45.8% citing the lack of financial incentives.

“To ensure that nursing homes keep pace with the rest of healthcare, it seems critical that public policy should specifically focus on helping nursing homes overcome barriers to EHR adoption and encourage broad participation in HIE,” the authors concluded.

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