The electronic health record or EHR has been implemented in the majority of healthcare settings though many providers have reservations about the new system. They complain how EHRs are negatively impacting patient care. It is expected the EHR will make the process of medical records review easier, and improve care co-ordination across providers and hospital systems. Many studies are being done on the EHR, and a new medical study about hospital-based physicians’ perceptions of EHRs says that the study findings illustrate that EHR usability should be addressed as a quality of care issue.
Brown University researchers and Healthcentric Advisors conducted the study that was published in the Journal of Innovation in Health Informatics. The study found that hospital-based physicians and office-based physicians see EHRs negatively altering patient interactions. Hospital-based physicians said that EHRs took time away from patient contact; office-based physicians pointed out that the electronic health record worsened the quality of their patient interactions and relationships.
According to the study authors, this research is unique for its relatively large sample size (it was based on the open-ended answers given by 744 doctors to the question “How does using an EHR affect your interaction with patients?” on a Rhode Island Department of Health survey in 2014 on health information technology). Another reason that makes this research stand out is its incorporation of both hospital and office-based physicians. These findings supplement earlier literature that focuses on outpatient physicians, and can be used to shape interventions to improve how the EHR is used in inpatient settings.
The study authors point out inpatient and outpatient physicians are burdened by documentation – documentation requirements for quality measures, billing and public reporting. The EHR is not a medical chart focusing on clinical care, which is what makes it complex for physicians. Awkward user interfaces and the way physicians enter data is not in keeping with how they think through a patient case or how they perform a patient history, and this makes the entire process of data entry very slow and frustrating.
As providers of medical review services we understand how laborious it must be for physicians who are now taxed by EHR documentation requirements. EHRs need to be made more usable, intuitive and the billing part need to be separated out and made less challenging. The study team drew attention to the fact that healthcare data is growing phenomenally, and the stress related to EHR is contributing considerably to physician burnout, which makes it a quality issue.