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Physician IT

Over 20% of physicians use an EHR: study

(Note: this is a corrected version of an article that previously appeared on the Canadian Healthcare Technology newsletter and website.)

OTTAWA – The Canadian Institute for Health Information has posted a new analysis presenting data on the percentages of family physicians who reported using electronic health records (EHR).

Given the benefits of and investments made in the EHR, and the level of contact Canadians have with their family doctors, learning about physicians' EHR usage patterns is becoming increasingly important.

The data are based on the results of the 2004 National Physician Survey. Nearly 22,000 physicians across Canada completed the 2004 survey. This is over one-third of Canada’s eligible physician workforce (35.85%). The analysis includes the following highlights:

When all physicians in Canada are considered, the number “having” an EHR is 26.3%; the number “using” an EHR is 20.6%.

That's much higher than many earlier sources have indicated, as many pundits previously estimated EHR usage by Canadian physicians to be in the area of 5% to 10%.

According to the study, 20.9% of family physicians across Canada report having an EHR. However, the figure for GPs who report actually “using” the EHR drops to 16.4%.

The study found that specialists are more likely to employ and use an EHR; the number of specialists who reported “having” and EHR was 32.2%, and the number who “used” it was 25.2%.

Some variation in reported use of EHR exists among provinces, with physicians living in Newfoundland, Alberta and Ontario being the most likely to say they use an EHR (32.7%%, 25.8%, and 24.2% respectively).

PEI, Saskatchewan and Quebec registered the lowest usage of EHRs by physicians, with usage percentages of 6.3%, 11.8% and 12.3% respectively.

In a related topic, 3.4% of physicians said they use electronic interfaces to pharmacies/pharmacists.

However, 22.7% of physicians said they use an electronic interface to external laboratory/diagnostic imaging centres.

As well, 12.6% said they use electronic interfaces to other external systems for accessing or sharing patient information.

The study found that 10.4% of physicians used an electronic warning system for adverse prescribing and/or drug interactions.

It found that 10.0% used electronic decision aids; 43.2% used online access to journals, clinical practice guidelines, or medical databases.

According to the survey, 26% of family physicians aged 34 or under reported using electronic health records while 17% of family physicians aged 65 or older reported using electronic health records.

A slightly higher proportion of male family physicians report using electronic health records when compared to female family physicians.

Questions dealing with information technology were part of the 2004 National Physician Survey (NPS), which was organized by the College of Family Physicians of Canada, the Canadian Medical Association, and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

Detailed survey information, including methodology, questionnaires, and results, is available on the NPS website at