Electronic Health Records

Integration & Interoperability News

EHR Interoperability a Top Concern for Medical Students

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

- While current providers are realizing how a lack interoperability impacts care coordinating delivery, future physicians see advanced interoperability as integral to their success.

EHR interoperability is a concern for current medical students

That and several other findings have come out of an athenahealth survey of more than a thousand medical students on school training and industry practices.

As part of the 10th annual Epocrates Future Physicians of American (FAA) survey, researchers found that nearly all of respondents (96%) reported the ability to share patient health records with care team members as critical to improving patient care, and a similarly large majority (87%) view a universal patient record as useful resource in the future. Specifically on the subject of EHR interoperability, present-day physicians  are in agreement percentage-wise as to the importance of interoperable technology.

The importance of EHR interoperability comes down to patient safety risks as a result of fragmented care.

"Health systems all use a variety of vendors and none seem to talk to each other. In order to gain critical information about the patient, we are still stuck using phones and faxes, which aren’t helpful in emergency situations," Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine fourth-year medical student Kenneth Iwuji said in announcement of the findings. "These barriers need to be broken down; there’s no reason why information shouldn’t flow freely and securely."

However, less than half that amount (44%) were concerned about the ability of healthcare organizations and physician practices to do so.  Many more future physicians (73%) revealed worries about their ability to share patient health data with non-affiliated providers.

Clinical documentation is still perceived as a burden to the practice of medicine for respondents. As many as 71 percent of third- and fourth-year respondents noted that they spend more time documenting as compared to seeing patients. A total of 80 percent foresee patient interactions coming second to clinical documentation. Despite this disparity, current medical students are overwhelmingly in favor of becoming practicing physicians, with 95.3 percent indicating that as their post-graduate career plan.

Where that career as a physician will take them in terms of running a practice is unclear. Less than one-tenth of respondents (8%) reported being prepared for practice management and ownership. Only four percent reported being ready to bill and code.

According to researchers, this is the fifth consecutive year wherein business skills have lagged behind clinical skills. Based on the survey, as many as three-quarters (74%) are focused more on bedside manner preparation as part of their training.

As for the role of technology in their clinical practice, future physicians indicated medical applications as the preferred choice to their peers and professors when first looking for clinical information. Despite this preference for technology, respondents stressed the importance of face-to-face encounters — 98 percent preferred initial patient visits to take place in person while 89 percent preferred follow-up visits to also take place face-to-face.

For its part, the American Medical Association (AMA) earlier this year addressed the importance of training medical students on physician EHR use to ensure that this technology helps improve health outcomes as part of the Accelerating Change in Medical Education initiative.

Clearly, tomorrow's physicians want to use technology but only insofar as it helps rather than hinders care coordination and delivery.

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