Why is EHR Adoption Going So Well In Wisconsin?

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We asked a former Wisconsin governor what other states can learn from Wisconsin’s health IT success story.

You may have noticed in our health IT adoption infographic last week that the Midwest, led by Wisconsin, is outpacing the rest of the U.S. in office physicians adopting electronic health records and e-prescribing. At the end of 2012, just over 70 percent of doctors in the state were using EHRs, more than any other state in the country.

We noticed too, and we decided to investigate.

HealthBiz Decoded reached out to Jim Doyle for insight. Doyle was governor of Wisconsin from 2003 to 2011, and currently lawyer of counsel with Foley and Lardner LLP in Madison, Wis.


Advancing healthcare technology has long been an issue Doyle cared about, and he and several other lawmakers united to prioritize innovation and reform in the state in 2010. In May of that year, he signed into law the Wisconsin Relay of Electronic Data (WIRED) for Health Act, which set the state on an accelerated path.

“We did something a little different from a lot of other places,” Doyle told HealthBiz Decoded.

The WIRED Act authorized the state to designate a nonprofit corporation to receive and control federal stimulus funds, about $10 million, to set up and run a health information exchange. The law also allowed hospitals to receive hundreds of millions in federal funds to set up and maintain EHRs before much of the rest of the country was worrying about the issue.

Two months after Doyle signed the WIRED Act, the Obama administration rolled out a five-year nationwide EHR adoption plan.

“We had some really forward-thinking people who understood how important this was to the overall health of people, to have good records and all of the things that come with that,” he said.

Large Provider Systems

“The other thing that we have that has served us very well is that many of our doctors are employed by large health systems,” Doyle pointed out.

A handful of major provider systems in Wisconsin serve about 90 percent of patients in the state, he said. That means process changes move faster and adoption of new tech catches on quicker.

“We don’t have to reach all the thousands of little ten-doctor clinics that many other states deal with,” he said. “Our biggest health system is Aurora Healthcare and they have hospitals and clinics throughout the state. When they decided they were going to run an EHR, you’re not out having to convince as many doctors that this is a good thing to do.”

An Uncertain Future

The current lead Wisconsin has over other states may be slipping away, Doyle said.

“It’s going to be really interesting in Wisconsin,” he said. “When I left office we were way ahead of the curve.”

But Doyle, a Democrat, was succeeded by Republican Scott Walker, whose administration has pulled back on a lot of that progress, he said.

In January 2012, Gov. Walker sent a $30 million federal grant meant to establish a statewide health insurance exchange back to Washington D.C. in a gesture of opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

Whether Wisconsin can hold on to a pioneering position in health IT remains to be seen, but Doyle believes that EHR and e-prescribing adoption, at least, will likely continue on at the same pace.

2 Responses to “Why is EHR Adoption Going So Well In Wisconsin?”

Steve Costa

Based on the lack of effective safeguards to electronic data, as evidenced by Hackers, Corporate America and the NSA, I have zero interest in having my personal healthcare data being secured and transmitted in this manner.

About the ONLY positive aspect is to avoid drug interaction complications and the like which can be equally avoided by the individual wearing a MedAlert bracelet or ‘dog tags’…

This way every individual has the ability to benefit from the goals of this effort without subjecting the rest of us to the clear and overwhelming infringements.

kathrn clough

Health records are confidential and personal, and records should not be entered in a database or health exchange. Personal records should only go to the doctor or hospital that is treating the individual.

If the individual chooses, they may take their records to another doctor.

Fox Chase Cancer Center continues to try to get you to release your records to a data base. I find that sneaky. Fox Chase was told that my husband would not participate in their biomass research study. They continue to try to get permission to use your records when you have a doctor appointment. I feel Fox Chase is trying to take advantage of senior citizens when they keep asking you to give them permission to have your health records. Why can’t they understand your recorfds are confidential and never to be shared?