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Two-Thirds of Physicians Left Out of EHR Optimization Efforts

A new survey revealed only one-third of healthcare organizations requested feedback from physicians to inform EHR optimization projects.

Most EHR optimization projects lack physician input, which may negatively affect physician satisfaction with EHR technology.

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- Many healthcare organizations are missing a valuable opportunity to boost EHR usability, physician satisfaction, and clinician engagement by leaving physicians out of the EHR optimization process.

This finding comes from a recent 2018 Deloitte survey exploring physician interactions with EHR technology that revealed 66 percent of surveyed physicians were not asked to provide feedback to inform EHR optimization decisions.

Deloitte gathered responses from 624 primary and specialty care physicians across the country to gain insight into clinicians’ opinions about interoperability, clinical workflows, EHR optimization, and clinical documentation.

Researchers found only 34 percent of surveyed physicians reported being asked by their healthcare organization or EHR vendor to provide feedback during EHR optimization projects.

Physicians in both large healthcare organizations and independent practices felt equally overlooked during EHR optimization efforts. Meanwhile, primary care physicians tended to have more of an opportunity to participate in EHR optimization, with forty-four percent being asked for feedback.

“Our survey data also points to a link between inviting feedback and sustaining engagement,” wrote Deloitte researchers in the report. “Half (51 percent) of physicians who were not asked for feedback say they are unaware of EHR optimization efforts within their organization or through their EHR vendor, but only 16 percent of physicians invited to provide feedback say so.”

In addition to this lack of clinician engagement during EHR optimization, researchers also found most physicians were dissatisfied with the lack of interoperability between vendor systems.

Specifically, 62 percent of respondents said improving interoperability is a top priority.

Researchers suggested interoperability improvements may be a top priority among clinicians party because of the surge in mergers and acquisitions cropping up across the country in recent years. Physicians at healthcare facilities that have recently joined with larger organizations may need to share information with in-network providers operating on different EHR systems.

Frustration with the state of interoperability also likely comes from physician groups and health systems engaging in health data exchange with outside organizations. Problems with interoperability limit external data sharing and can cause many providers to send and receive incomplete data.

“To tackle interoperability issues, health systems may need to employ multiple approaches: moving to a unified EHR platform or connecting multiple platforms through interface engines; APIs; health information exchange (HIE) approaches; blockchain to support secure data exchange; and/or custom-built solutions,” suggested Deloitte researchers.

Administrative burden associated with clinical documentation also negatively affects provider interactions with EHR technology.

Fifty-eight percent of surveyed physicians highlighted the need for clinical documentation improvement (CDI.)

“Responses to an open-ended question about one daily task that could be done more efficiently further suggest that documentation is an area ripe for automation,” wrote researchers. “Based on these responses, specific documentation tasks that could be done more efficiently include charting, capturing visit notes, data entry, and inputting boilerplate information to meet administrative requirements.”

Old and new documentation tools ranging from the Dictaphone to natural language processing (NLP) and virtual assistants may help to ease some of the burden of clinical documentation.

There are also opportunities for healthcare organizations to improve physician satisfaction with EHR technology by optimizing clinical workflows, researchers noted.

“As the industry moves toward more team-based care, ensuring that workflows are optimized for the way care is delivered and taking full advantage of the available technologies can be valuable,” wrote researchers.

Clinical workflow optimization is one of four strategies Deloitte researchers recommended for improving physician interactions with EHR systems.

Researchers also recommended healthcare organizations seek physician feedback during EHR optimization, provide ongoing support to clinicians through EHR training and other activities, communicate progress on EHR-related issues, and track health IT trends.

“Many emerging technologies are in the early stages of development, but the landscape is changing, with some technologies and use cases quickly approaching maturity,” stated researchers. “Health systems that ignore this field today may risk falling behind.”

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