EHR Adoption, Use Remain a Source of Frustration for Docs

While many physicians have their grievances with EHR use, surveys show they are still seeing success in integrating the technology into their workflows.

By Sara Heath on

EHR adoption is still seen as a win-some, lose-some situation, with users reporting many positives and negatives about the technology, shows a recent survey conducted by Physicians Practice.

The survey, which included responses from 1,568 healthcare professionals, found that many providers are still frustrated with EHR use and aren’t seeing the full benefits industry experts often praise.

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EHR optimization was the highest-rated issue providers saw with their EHRs, with 20 percent of respondents saying such. Another 18.9 percent of providers said their EHR reduced their productivity, and 12.9 percent lamented a lack of EHR interoperability.

The issue of practice productivity is a particularly pressing one, the survey indicates, with providers seeing no increase in the number of patients they are able to treat.

Forty-six percent of respondents reported that they saw less patients after adopting their EHR, and 45 percent said they saw an equal number of patients as prior to EHR adoption. Only 8 percent of respondents said they saw an increase in their patient load.

Further, many respondents have not seen the financial payoff of EHR adoption. The financial strains associated with EHR adoption are well documented, with several hospitals undergoing massive layoffs following EHR implementations.

The survey found that nearly three-quarters of hospitals have not seen a return on investment for their EHR, despite the fact that the technology has made patient claims processing easier.

All of these issues are deterring some practices from adopting an EHR at all. According to the survey, 16.8 percent of hospitals do not have an EHR. Of that 16.8 percent, 40.9 percent say it is because they do not believe the technology would improve patient care.

However, for all of the frustrations those surveyed reported, EHR use has still produced some beneficial results.

For one, providers and hospitals are generally satisfied with their EHR vendors. A total of 39.7 percent of respondents reported being satisfied with their vendor, while 16 percent reported being very satisfied. Only 8 percent expressed being dissatisfied with their EHR vendor.

Furthermore, respondents have been able to successfully attest to the CMS EHR Incentive Programs, which spurred the influx of EHR adoption upon its passage in 2009. Of the individuals surveyed, 55 percent had successfully attested to Stage 1 and Stage 2 meaningful use.

About one-quarter had successfully attested to Stage 1 meaningful use and was working toward Stage 2, while nearly 15 percent were working on making progress on Stage 1 meaningful use. Only 7 percent of respondents had no plans to participate in the incentive program.

Several of the respondents also reported being ahead of the game with regard to the rest of meaningful use. Forty-two percent of respondents stated that they are ready to attest to Stage 3 Meaningful Use, which is set to begin optionally in 2017 and is mandatory come 2018.

Overall, these results highlight that EHR adoption is still a complex issue. While the technology has its benefits, there are also challenges that providers will need to work through in order to make the tool best fit into their workflows.

Other research shows similar trends. One recent study from Mayo Clinic shows that some EHR functions, like computerized physician order entry (CPOE), decrease physician satisfaction with the tool. This is because CPOE places several burdens on the provider, requiring very involved use.

"Electronic health records hold great promise for enhancing coordination of care and improving quality of care," Tait Shanafelt, MD and lead author of the study, told Science Daily.

"In their current form and implementation, however, they have had a number of unintended negative consequences including reducing efficiency, increasing clerical burden and increasing the risk of burnout for physicians."

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