It's tme for EHRs to solve problems for doctors rather than cause them

October 25, 2016

For this year’s Medical Economics EHR Report, we wanted to get right to the heart of the matter regarding what’s working and what’s not with electronic health record systems, so we went to the experts: you, our readers.

For this year’s Medical Economics EHR Report, we wanted to get right to the heart of the matter regarding what’s working and what’s not with electronic health record systems, so we went to the experts: you, our readers.

The overriding sentiment from the more than 2,000 docs we surveyed? In a nutshell, no one really loves their EHR, but they tolerate them because that’s the direction from Washington, D.C., if they wish to get paid today and into the future. Doctors need some way of gathering-and reporting-all the data being requested.

Sixty percent of physicians say they aren’t satisfied with their EHR systems and 46% say they wouldn’t recommend their current product to a colleague. The main reasons for the dissatisfaction were lack of concern for physician / practice time in resolving problems (66%) and not meeting current practice needs (51%).

So the answer seems simple. If you don’t like the system you have, simply pick another since, after all, this is a wide open marketplace with plenty of options for dissatisfied docs.

Unfortunately, the answer is not as simple as it seems.  As we note in our cover story this issue, doctors largely feel trapped in their current EHR system for reasons ranging from being forced to use their employer’s tool of choice to simply not being able to afford new software and accompanying hardware, plus the costs of lost time and productivity to train on a new system.

 

Since passage of the HITECH Act in 2009, the promise of EHRs-a more connected healthcare community benefiting both patient and physician-has yet to be fully (or even partially) realized.  What we have instead are systems that can’t talk to each other. In addition, you have doctors who can’t talk to patients without looking at a screen in front of them, trying to click through a series of boxes to move through a visit or face a pile of charts that need completing before leaving for the day.

The EHR hasn’t become a useful companion to physicians. It’s become a troublesome captor, holding doctors back rather than advancing them forward. 

As interoperability efforts advance -ironically divided into different projects on multiple tracks by various agencies and vendors-physicians are left in limbo waiting for some kind of breakthrough, some glimmer of hope that all the time, money and lost productivity will somehow pay off down the line in the form of truly improved patient care, the promise made to healthcare providers seven years ago.

One can only hope that in all the discussion of connected systems, universal health records and a truly interoperable healthcare environment, that government regulators don’t forget the most important conduit for valuable healthcare information to affect tomorrow’s outcomes and cost of care: the dialogue between physician and patient.  

 

 

Keith L. Martin is editorial director of Medical Economics. What problems do you have with electronic health records? Tell us at medec@ubm.com