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EHR Improvements Needed to Improve Physician Productivity

Seventy percent of primary care physicians say EHR use gets in the way of their productivity, sparking a need for EHR improvements, according to a Deloitte survey.

By Sara Heath

- Physicians want to see more EHR system improvements to boost productivity and practice costs, according to the Deloitte 2016 Survey of Physicians.

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The survey of 600 primary care physicians shows that providers still largely view EHRs in a negative light. In the 2014 version of the survey, 55 percent of physicians said EHR capabilities can support positive clinical outcomes; in the 2016 survey, only 47 percent of respondents said the same.

Instead, a majority (78 percent) of physicians said EHRs are better suited for analytics and reporting, a 10 percent increase since the 2014 survey.

Physician EHR use may also get in the way of productivity, the survey indicates, with 70 percent of respondents reporting that the technology has slowed down their workflows. The technology is also proving a cost burden on practices, with three out of four respondents stating that the technology costs more than they see in efficiency savings.

Deloitte also found differences in satisfaction rates among employed and independent physicians, showing that for the most part, employed physicians are more satisfied with the tools.

Seventy percent of employed physicians believe their EHRs support clinical information exchange, while 51 percent of independent physicians report the same. Additionally, 61 percent of employed physicians say that their EHRs help improve clinical outcomes, while 40 percent of independent physicians report clinical outcome improvements.

The survey shows that independent physicians are more likely to expect the worst from their EHRs, with 72 percent saying the tools get in the way of their productivity. Fifty-seven percent of employed physicians felt the same.

Eighty percent of independent physicians think EHRs increase practice costs, while 63 percent of employed physicians say the technology increased costs.

Although many physicians report issues with their EHRs, 60 percent say they would not return to paper charts. However, they do list some desired improvements for the technology.

Sixty-two percent say they want improved EHR interoperability and 57 percent say they want their EHRs to improve their clinical workflows and productivity. Only 12 percent say they don’t want to see any improvements with their EHRs.

Other surveys have also shown negative physician feedback for EHRs. In a survey from the American Medical Association, physicians reported that EHR use was impeding patient-provider interactions. For every hour physicians spend with patients, the survey found, they spend two hours documenting on their EHR and completing other desk work.

Another survey from Adventist University of Health Sciences found that 92 percent of nurses are dissatisfied with EHR technology. Eighty-four percent stated that EHRs disrupted their clinical workflows, while 85 percent said that their tools consistently displayed flaws or glitches.

Ninety percent of nurses said that EHR use got in the way of their patient relationships, and 94 percent said the technology did not improve communication with physician partners.

According to Mitch Morris, MD, Vice Chairman and Global Leaders of Deloitte’s Healthcare Sector, this feedback is integral in driving healthcare technology and EHRs forward. Although providers express frustrations with the technology, stakeholders must take it and adjust EHR developments.

“Not unlike the practice of medicine itself, effective implementation of EHRs can be part science and a healthy dose of art,” Morris said in a Deloitte blog post accompanying the survey.

“The art of the EHR includes our ability to manage change, train clinicians in a holistic way, transform workflow, and truly take advantage of automation. We may get there but, we should consider being responsive to the strong notes of concern from the clinical community.”

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