Electronic Health Records

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Most Patients Report EHR Technology Improves Quality of Care

While physician EHR use can negatively affect the patient-provider relationship, most patients see substantial value in the technology.

EHR Use

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- A new survey found 85 percent of patients believe EHR technology and other technological advances will improve the quality of patient care a great deal.

Research from The Physicians Foundation gathered responses from over 1,747 patients between the ages of 27 and 75 that have seen the same doctor twice in the past 12 months. The survey was conducted online between June 19, 2017 and June 30, 2017.

Researchers found that while patients see potential for EHR technology to become a boon to care delivery, patients still believe EHR technology hinders care quality somewhat. Fifty-nine percent of patients reported feeling that reliance on technology can interfere with high quality care, and 57 percent said their doctor spends more time looking at her computer than maintaining eye contact.

To compare patient and physician responses regarding technology use, researchers also utilized responses from physicians gathered during a 2016 Survey of America’s Physicians. 

The survey found 31 percent of patients believe their physicians are overworked or overwhelmed, while 28 percent of physicians reported that their practices actually are overworked.

Variation between patient and provider opinions increased slightly regarding the extent to which EHR technology and design adversely affects patient care delivery. Seventy-two percent of physicians reported feeling that EHR technology and design adversely impact patient care in a substantial way, while only 60 percent of patients believe EHR technology negatively affects patient care.

While more physicians than patients believe EHR use has had a substantial adverse effect on patient care, almost all survey participants agree the technology has had some repercussions. Only 2 percent of physicians and one percent of patients reported that EHR use and design have not negatively impacted patient care delivery in any way.

Still, patients and providers agree EHR use is important—especially patient EHR access through patient portals. Eighty-five percent of physicians in 2016 agreed all doctors should provide patients with access to their EHRs. Additionally, most participating physicians and patients are hopeful EHR use will improve the quality of healthcare in general. As of 2017, 74 percent of physicians and 73 percent of patients reported they believe EHRs will improve overall healthcare quality.

The survey also gauged patient and physician opinions of the general state of the healthcare system and the likelihood that physicians can influence change. Only 5 percent of physicians stated physicians have the ability to influence the healthcare industry a great deal, while 13 percent of patients reported perceiving their physicians could affect substantial change in the industry.

Largely positive perceptions of EHR use among the patient population could assist in boosting the technology’s reputation. However, the patient-provider relationship remains a persistently cited problem area.

A June study by Pelland et al. found that while EHR use may reduce medical errors, the technology has complicated the patient-provider relationship.

Researchers at Brown University performed a qualitative analysis of comments submitted to a 2014 Rhode Island Health Information Technology survey for insight into physician experiences with EHR systems and found both hospital-based and office-based physicians are concerned about the technology’s effects on patient interactions.

While physicians cited problems with increasing documentation burden, but lauded the technology for improving patient communication and health data access.

“Although hospital-based physicians report benefits ranging from better information access to improved patient education and communication, unintended negative consequences are more frequent themes,” stated researchers.

This and other studies have revealed the wide array of contrasting opinions surrounding the effectiveness and overall impact of EHR technology. 

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