Electronic Health Records

Adoption & Implementation News

How Does Physician EHR Use Affect Doctor-Patient Relationship?

By Vera Gruessner

- In recent years, the patient-doctor relationship has been evolving significantly with the advent of health IT systems and certified EHR technology. The healthcare industry has also been pushing forward patient engagement though the utilization of mobile health tools and patient portals. Physician EHR use in particular is affecting the overall patient-doctor relationship during a medical visit.

Physician EHR Adoption

Manhattan Research of Decision Resources Group has attempted to better understand physician EHR use through its recent study about the patterns and styles of EHR utilization among doctors. The study discovered that physicians are working beyond their regular hours with one out of four doctors using smart phones to access electronic patient records.

Efficiency of physician EHR use has gone up with 66 percent of respondents claiming they’ve become more time-efficient when accessing EHR systems. Also, about one out of two polled physicians are interested in receiving data from pharmaceuticals through their EHR systems.

James Avallone, Director of Physician Research for Manhattan Research of Decision Resources Group, spoke with EHRIntelligence.com to offer more insight into the physician EHR use report.

“Our Foundation’s physician study looks into understanding the digital profile of physicians in the US as it pertains to the professional practices,” Avallone began. “We use a sample size of over 3,000 physicians for this, which allows us to dive into specialty areas or other demographics of interest to clients. Something that’s unique and interesting about our data is that the data set is compared to known national universe of practicing US physicians and we weight this by age, gender, region, practice setting and specialty, so it’s accurate and reflective of the overall US population of practicing physicians.”

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When asked whether doctors are spending less time with patients and more time on data entry or are satisfied with their EHR use, Avallone stated, “We’re seeing that electronic health records do take up a decent portion of time when doctors are spending with patients.”

“Whether it’s too much or too little, it’s difficult for us to say from our perspective,” he explained. “In the past four to five years, we’ve seen a fair share of complaints in terms of the efficiency of EHRs and how it’s changing bedside manners for physicians overall. I do think we’re starting to see some efficiencies come about in terms of efficient use of these platforms and that includes at the point of care. It’s certainly something that physicians are getting used to as it becomes more ingrained in their day-to-day behaviors. They’ve had more time to streamline workflow and that’s something that we’re seeing in terms of how these devices are being used at the point of care.”

Avallone also mentioned that physicians are spending approximately one-third to one-half of their patient visit entering data and using the EHR, which does limit their opportunity to speak directly with the patient. When asked how mobile health applications are affecting physician EHR use, Avallone explained that “it’s been slow-going.”

“We’re starting to see some vendors make that more of a priority but EHR platforms can be very time-consuming activities and, at this juncture, it’s not so much a problem of the vendors, in my opinion, as it is that the form factors of tablets and smart phones are not built to be as EHR-friendly as a desktop/laptop is,” Avallone continued. “With the amount of content you need to input into these platforms, it’s much more efficient to be doing that with a laptop or desktop. These are so ingrained already into what we’re seeing in most hospitals and physician hospital settings.”

“The transfer over to having EHRs be such a predominant part of the screen time for physicians has been ripe with inefficiencies from the get-go,” said Avallone. “I think getting these clinical notes done in the most efficient way possible has become the main goal of physicians and that tends to be most likely to occur on a desktop/laptop in 2015.”

When asked whether the ongoing government regulations requiring more data entry is affecting the amount of hours physicians are working, Avallone did mention that doctors are working longer hours but not in the typical fashion.

“The amount of time physicians are spending in front of a screen at home has gone up dramatically in the past few years,” he explained. “We see over half of physicians saying that they access electronic health records from home and we see even more physicians saying they’re accessing websites, apps, and email in terms of professional purposes from their house as well. So we’re seeing it become much more of a 24/7 job.”

“In 2015, we’re seeing that EHRs are pushing forward communication between physicians and patients through the online patient portals,” Avallone concluded with a final point about the study. “We’re seeing some jumps there. We’re up to about one-third of physicians saying that they’re communicating with patients via online patient portals.”

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