EHR adoption rates increased 133 percent in federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), sometimes called community health centers between 2009 and 2013, according to a new Commonwealth Fund survey of health center leaders. The new report is based on key findings from the 2013 Commonwealth Fund National Survey of FQHCs that examines how FQHCs are preparing for the anticipated increase in health care demand as people gain insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Community health centers provide care to people regardless of their ability to pay or health insurance status. In 2012, the centers treated 21 million people, of whom nearly eight of 10 had public insurance or were uninsured. The new survey finds that 85 percent of FQHCs reported they had achieved advanced HIT capabilities in 2013—meaning they could perform at least nine of thirteen key functions, such as e-prescribing medications. FQHCs adopted HIT at higher rates than office-based physicians, including large practices and large integrated health care systems.
Other key findings include:
- Majority of FQHCs expressed concern about the likely rise in demand, with staffing a primary worry
- As health center leaders look to the coming year, 83 percent believe physician supply will be a major or minor problem, and 73 percent say recruiting and retaining sufficient numbers of nurse practitioners and physician assistants will continue to be a problem
- 56 percent of FQHCs reported primary care physician shortages in 2013
- community health centers were also successful at leveraging available resources to ensure access to care for their patients
- 58 percent of FQHCs anticipate maintaining the same quality of care to be a problem in the face of increased demand, health centers were preparing for expected changes by investing in expanded and better-integrated behavioral health services (53%), hiring new medical staff (31%), introducing telemedicine and other technologies that allow patients to access health care remotely (17%), and hiring staff to help patients apply for insurance coverage (69%)