Doctors like EHRs even less than they did five years ago

Software should enhance efficiency and productivity right? Not so fast
By Jack McCarthy
10:08 AM
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Whereas it's relatively safe to generalize that most technologies improve with each new iteration and user feedback yields changes that customers ultimately appreciate, one has to wonder if today's crop of electronic health records software are among the exceptions to that pattern of progress.

Yes, the top-tier EHR vendors are for the most part improving certain aspects of their products, notably usability, workflow, UI, load and response times as well as other features designed to improve both the user experience and productivity. 

But do the clinicians, physicians, nurses and specialists actually using the software like EHRs any more than they did five years ago?

No, they do not, at least according to the results of a study published by the American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians' AmericanEHR division.

Physicians, rather, have are grown increasingly dissatisfied with their electronic health records software during the last five years. 

[Related: How does your EHR stack up? See our 2015 satisfaction survey results.]

"While EHR systems have the promise of improving patient care and practice efficiency, we are not yet seeing those effects," said Shari Erickson, vice president of American College of Physicians

The survey, "Physician Use of EHR Systems 2014," found that about half of all respondents reported a negative impact in response to questions about how their EHR system improved costs, efficiency or productivity, the American Academy of Physicians reported.

What's more, the majority of respondents said they were dissatisfied with their EHR system, in fact, and only 22 percent indicated they were satisfied. That percentage dropped down to 12 when asked if they were "very satisfied."

In striking contrast, a similar study conducted by AmericanEHR five years ago found the majority of respondents satisfied – with 39 percent answering satisfied and 22 percent saying they were very satisfied.  

That said, for a little perspective it's important to understand the EHR landscape five years back. The HITECH Act and its incentives for hospitals to implement the software and for EHR makers to meet certain criteria were nascent. Adoption rates have skyrocketed since then, however, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT have disbursed more than $30 billion under meaningful use

Given that, what accounts for clinicians being less satisfied with EHRs than they were before all the incentives even began? Was it just a matter of not having pressure to use the software after a fashion that meets federal criteria? Or is this a case of expectation adjustments such that five years ago doctors were happier with less sophisticated technology than they are today?