Study reveals physicians’ technology-related frustration

July 12, 2016

A Mayo Clinic report reveals many physicians are dissatisfied with EHRs and patient portals, saying they improve neither their efficiency nor patient care.

A new study measures physician thoughts on the increasingly computerized clinical environment in which they work – and the findings aren’t good.

The study authors found that physician satisfaction with electronic health record (EHR) and computerized provider order entry (CPOE) systems was not only low but that those systems weren’t helping physicians improve their efficiency.

“In their current form and implementation, EHR, CPOE and the current electronic environment have had a variety of unintended negative consequences,” Tait Shanafelt, MD, a Mayo Clinic hematologist and researcher who is also one of the study’s authors, told Medical Economics.

Published in July’s Mayo Clinic Proceedings, the study found that only 36% of the responding 5,358 physicians using EHRs were satisfied or very satisfied with their EHRs. On the other hand, 43.7% were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.

Similarly, the study found only 38.1% of the 4,847 physicians using CPOE were satisfied or very satisfied while 41.9% were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.

The study reported similar results regarding physicians’ opinions on the impact of EHRs and patient portals on patient care. Some 36.3% agreed or strongly agreed that EHRs had improved patient care, but 41% disagreed or strongly disagreed. Physician opinions on patient portals proved only marginally better: 35.3% of the responding physicians who use patient portals agreed or strongly agreed that the portals improved patient care while 28.1% disagreed or strongly disagreed with that sentiment.

Furthermore, the study found that physicians don’t believe these systems are improving efficiency. A mere 23% said they believe that EHRs improved their efficiency, while 62.5% disagreed with that statement. And only 21.9% of those using patient portals believed that these systems increased their efficiency, with 51% disagreed.

 

Wanda Filer, MD, MBA, FAAFP, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said she isn’t surprised by these findings.

She too has had plenty of complaints about the EHR systems she has used in her practice, from lost information and mixed up data to frustratingly slow responses.

“I would sit there and look at the little spinning circle for sometimes 10 or 20 minutes,” she said. “My job is not to look at the computer. It’s to look at the patient. It’s heartbreaking that we turn our backs on our patients to type.”

Such problems can significantly impact physicians and their patients, she said.

Filer said many of her colleagues say that more and more of their time is spent entering data into their EHR systems. That takes away from the time they can spend working with existing patients and scheduling new patient appointments. It’s even eating into more and more of their personal time, thus hurting their personal and family relationships, too.

Filer said newer systems better address physician needs and better fit with their workflow processes, helping to lower or eliminate some of the frustrations. However, she said improvements need to happen at a faster clip to counteract the negative impact these systems have had on clinicians.

“We need to find ways to incorporate EHRs, patient portals and electronic order entry in a way that does not increase clerical burden for physicians or reduce their efficiency,” Shanafelt said. “Innovative approaches such as using medical scribes, having nurses filter and respond to electronic messages from patients, and having support staff handle questions using verbal communication rather than electronic messaging have all been found to improve efficiency.”