Several EHR related studies show a trend toward not only increased adoption of electronic health records technology but also increased benefits for those already using it.

Kalorama Information, a medical market research company, published a report showing a 14.2 percent increase in EHR sales of 2011 over the previous year. The company’s report cited additional investment in EHRs, growing competition, and increased acceptance as reasons for this robust growth.

This report coincides with another study by market research company SK&A said that “small medical offices with one or two physicians in the practice are the fastest-growing segment for adoption of Electronic Health Records (EHR) software.”

Data collected in the second half of 2011 and presented in the study showed that, for the first time, smaller practices were adopting EHRs at a faster rate than their larger counterparts. Single-doctor offices showed increased rates from 30.8 percent to 36.9 percent, where practices of 6 to 10 doctors showed adoption rates increase about 2 percent.

The study also showed that ownership of medical practices played a role in EHR adoption with those practices owned by hospitals or health systems having a higher rate of adoption than those that were not.

For hospitals that are already using EHRs, the technology has shown to increase quality of care in several categories, according to a recent survey from HIMSS. The study focused on what it called “advanced EMRs” or those electronics health records capable of meeting criteria for either Stage 6 or Stage 7 of the HIMSS adoption standards model.

Stage 6 hospitals have full electronic documentation in at least one service area and medical imaging available through a secure network. To meet Stage 7 requirements, hospitals must prove they are utilizing a fully functional EHR system, capable of electronically sharing EHRs among hospitals, clinics, or other providers.

In the HIMSS study, hospitals using these advanced EHRs were asked which specific quality metrics were targeted for improvement. Over half of the study’s respondents targeted improvements in core quality measures for venous thromboembolism or VTE (73 percent), stroke (70 percent), congestive heart failure (64 percent), acute myocardial infarction (55 percent), and surgical (52 percent) patients. Several safety measures were targeted by hospitals in the study including reducing adverse drug effects (94 percent) and improving mortality (46 percent), according to respondents.

Seventy nine percent of the respondent hospitals reported multiple core measure and/or safety benefits. Among them VTE (55 percent), congestive heart failure (48 percent), and stroke (42 percent) core quality care measures were reported as benefitting the most from advanced EHR use.

Safety quality measures also saw improvements with the use of advance EHRs. Adverse drug effects (73 percent), patient safety (58 percent), and mortality (30 percent) safety quality measures also showed improvement in those respondents that targeted them specifically.

In addition to quality of care improvements, the HIMSS study showed several operational and administrative benefits to the adoption of advanced EHRs. Respondents reported a reduction in turnaround times (76 percent), decreased cost of paper forms (67 percent), and decreased transcription costs (61 percent).