doctor and patientTrying to read illegible physicians’ handwriting won’t be a problem in the future, as more and more health care systems adapt electronic health record (EHR) technology to keep track of patient data.

A new national survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that most office-based physicians who have switched to EHR are satisfied with their system and say it has improved patient care.

More than half (55 percent) of responding physicians said they have adopted at least some EHR technology in their practices. Of those, 85 said they were somewhat (47 percent) or very (38 percent) satisfied with their EHR system. A majority of the physicians said they would purchase their EHR systems again.

About three-fourths of the physicians who have adopted EHRs reported that their system already meets federal “meaningful use” requirements to use certified EHR technology. Additionally, about three-fourths of the physicians who are using EHR technology said that using their system “enhanced overall patient care.”  Half of them said they had been alerted to critical lab results within the past 30 days by using the EHR system, and about 40 percent said they had been alerted to potential medication errors.

About three-fourths of the physicians also reported that they had accessed a patient’s chart remotely within the past 30 days, which can be important to patient care when a need arises outside of office hours or the doctor is offsite.

The widespread, meaningful use of certified EHRs technology is part of the Obama administration’s ongoing effort to improve health care quality by better coordinating patient care, reducing medical errors, cutting out duplicate tests, and lowering the overall cost of health care. The 2009 Recovery Act provides incentive payments to eligible physicians and hospitals that meaningfully use certified EHRs.

Nearly half of the physicians currently without an EHR system plan to buy one or use one already purchased within the next year. This finding suggests, the report says, that an increase in EHR use is likely in the coming year.