Ambulatory Health Care Data

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the National Electronic Health Records Survey?

The National Electronic Health Records Survey (NEHRS) is an annual source of information on the adoption and use of electronic health record (EHR) systems by office-based physicians and their practices in the United States. It has been conducted since 2008 by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), which is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). NEHRS is sponsored by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). Results from NEHRS have been instrumental in providing data to track adoption and use of EHR systems, and progress physicians have made towards meeting the policy goals of the HITECH Act. In more recent years, survey data have been used to measure the sharing of patient health information, and participation in the Promoting Interoperability programs, sponsored by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Why is this survey being conducted?

The main objective of NEHRS is to produce timely data to measure the progress in the adoption of EHR systems among U.S. physicians and their offices. The survey also collects data to monitor health information exchange (HIE), including interoperability, and burden associated with EHRs.

Why is it important to participate?

NCHS and ONC want NEHRS to represent all office-based physicians in the United States. The only way to do this is to randomly select physicians to represent not only themselves, but thousands of other physicians in the same geographic region and medical specialty. Only the selected physician can take part, and we rely on those physicians to make the survey results as accurate as possible. We cannot replace a selected physician with another person.

How do I know this is a legitimate survey?

NCHS currently works with a contractor – RTI International – to collect the survey data. The data are collected through three different methods – web survey, paper questionnaire, and telephone interviews. All RTI International staff working on NEHRS have been trained according to procedures specified by NCHS and have signed a statement guaranteeing the confidentiality of the data.

Do I have to participate in the survey?

Participation by those physicians randomly selected for the survey is important to accurately represent not only themselves, but thousands of other physicians in the same geographic region and medical specialty. Survey participation is voluntary; however, we cannot replace you if you were selected to participate, which means physicians like you in your geographic region and medical specialty may be underrepresented in our statistical estimates.

Who can answer the questions?

The physician to whom the survey is addressed can answer the questions. However, if the physician is not available, a knowledgeable member of his/her office staff may also answer the questions on behalf of this physician.

How long does it take?

The survey takes an average of 30 minutes to complete.

Is my information kept confidential?
The confidentiality of responses is assured under Section 308(d) of the Public Health Service Act. NCHS has many procedures in place to prevent the disclosure of your data to others. Some of these procedures include data encryption, secure data networks, and many other security mechanisms following strict federal mandates. Responses are collected and securely transmitted to NCHS, where the data undergo edits and removal of personal identifiers prior to statistical estimates and data being released to the public. The collected data are used for statistical purposes only. When analytic reports are prepared and released by NCHS staff, your answers have been combined with those of many other physicians. No information that could identify any individual is publicly released. More information on how your privacy is respected is available here.

How are NEHRS data and reports released to the public?

NEHRS data, including your contribution if you participated in the survey, are collected into microdata files that are edited to remove all personal identifiers. These files can then be accessed by the public through the NCHS Research Data Center. Anyone interested can submit a proposal to the NCHS Research Data Center to access these edited NEHRS data files. The data from these files are also statistically analyzed, and the results are published in several types of reports that are released over the Internet or as journal articles.

The collected data are used for statistical purposes only. When analytical reports are prepared and released by NCHS staff, individual answers have been combined with those of many others, which safeguards the privacy of the physicians who responded to the survey. No information that could identify any individual is publicly released.

Is information available by U.S. state?

Since 2010 onward, data from NEHRS can be used to make statistical estimates for each of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The one exception is 2018, when budgetary limitations could only permit NEHRS to make national estimates.

Statistical estimates for your U.S. state or the District of Columbia are made available as online web tables, and can be found here.

Page last reviewed: April 13, 2020