Despite the government’s bribe of nearly $27 billion to digitize patient records, nearly 70% of physicians say electronic health record (EHR) systems have not been worth it. It’s a sobering statistic backed by newly released data from marketing and research firm MPI Group and Medical Economics that suggest nearly two-thirds of doctors would not purchase their current EHR system again because of poor functionality and high costs.
In a surprise finding, nearly 45% of physicians from the national survey report spending more than $100,000 on an EHR. About 77% of the largest practices spent nearly $200,000 on their systems.
While physicians can receive $44,000 through the Medicare EHR Meaningful Use (MU) incentive program, and $63,750 through Medicaid’s MU program, some physicians say it’s not nearly enough to cover the increasing costs of implementation, training, annual licensing fees, hardware and associated services. But the most dramatic unanticipated costs were associated with the need to increase staff, coupled with a loss in physician productivity.
“We used to see 32 patients a day with one tech, and now we struggle to see 24 patients a day with four techs. And we provide worse care,” said one survey respondent.
While some physicians cited benefits of accessing patient data, availability of practice metrics, and e-prescribing conveniences for patients, most physicians do not believe these systems come close to creating new efficiencies or sharing data with multiple providers or improving patient care.
In fact, when doctors were asked if their EHR investment was worth the effort, resources and cost, “no” was the reply given by nearly 79% of respondents in practices with more than 10 physicians.
Medical Economics’ survey results, based on responses from nearly 1,000 physicians, were corroborated by the findings of a January 2013 RAND Corp. study, detailed in Health Affairs, The New York Times, USA Today, and other national media organizations, criticizing the usability and interconnectedness of current EHR systems.
“The failure of health information technology to quickly deliver on its promise is not caused by its lack of potential, but rather because of the shortcomings in the design of the IT systems that are currently in place,” says Art Kellermann, MD, MPH, the study’s senior author and the Paul O’Neill Alcoa Chair in Policy Analysis at RAND.
Another 2013 RAND report, titled “Physician Professional Satisfaction and their Implications for Patient Care,” concludes that frustrations related to EHRs are negatively influencing physician attitudes about their careers.
“Poor EHR usability, time-consuming data entry, interference with face-to-face patient care, inefficient and less fulfilling work content, inability to exchange health information between EHR products, and degradation of clinical documentation were prominent sources of professional dissatisfaction,” the report says.