EHR adoption rates jump for solo practices

Meaningful use incentives and adequate preparation time to meet them have contributed to the rise.

By — Posted March 26, 2012

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

For the first time, medical practices with one or two physicians are the fastest-growing segment for adoption of electronic health records.

An ongoing study by SK&A, a marketing research firm in Irvine, Calif., found that for the second half of 2011, adoption rates for single-doctor offices jumped from 30.8% to 36.9%. This is the first time that growth in that segment outpaced that of large practices.

“Typically, it’s been the larger practices that have led the bunch, because they’ve had the most support and the most wherewithal, so this growth really is significant,” said Jack Schember, director of marketing for SK&A, whose company has been tracking EHR adoption trends for three years by continuously surveying 240,281 U.S. medical practices.

Schember said meaningful use incentives and all of the resources the federal government has made available to help small practices achieve them, such as funding regional extension centers, have played a large role in the increase in adoption.

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, a provision of the 2009 economic stimulus package, allows practices to earn up to $44,000 per physician over five years from Medicare or nearly $64,000 over six years from Medicaid if they show meaningful use of EHRs.

“The physicians are realizing through meaningful use there is reimbursement and there is light at the end of the tunnel for them, particularly with the smaller practices,” Schember said. “Because they are one- and two-doctor practices, this money means a lot to them.”

The growth rate for EHR adoption in large practices has slowed down, he noted, partially because they are beginning to hit a ceiling. Adoption in practices of 26 or more physicians grew from 75.5% to 77.2% in 2011. “But I wouldn’t say that that’s the end for the large practices,” Schember said. There are many that are upgrading old systems and changing vendors.

Although adoption rates for small practices have long lagged behind those of large groups, the market size for small practices is considerably larger.

Solo practices account for 55% of the medical sites in the U.S., according to SK&A, and practices of 20 or more physicians account for only 1%. Overall, physician practices saw an increase in EHR adoption from 40.4% in July 2011 to 45.6% in January.

“[V]endors of EHR technology and their partners are continuing to promote aggressively to the small-office market, which they see as the new frontier of sales opportunities,” said Dave Escalante, vice president and general manager of SK&A and OneKey, both subsidiaries of Cegedim, a global technology and service company that specializes in health care.

SK&A is under contract to provide adoption data to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, which is overseeing the meaningful use incentive program.

Back to top


EHR adoption by practice size

SK&A, a health care information company, surveyed more than 50,000 medical sites and broke down electronic health records adoption by practice size. For the first time in the three years the company has been tracking EHR adoption, solo and two-physician practices saw the most growth.

Percent of EHR adoption
Number of physicians at site July 2011 January 2012
One physicians 30.8% 36.9%
Two physicians 41.6% 47.1%
Three to five physicians 51.0% 54.9%
Six to 10 physicians 63.0% 64.9%
11 to 25 physicians 71.6% 74.0%
26 or more 75.5% 77.2%

Source: “Physician Office Usage of Electronic Health Record Software,” SK&A, March 7

Back to top



Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

Read story


American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

  • Stay informed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn