Wanted: Simpler, easier to use EHRs

Providers who have them are only mildly satisfied; those who don't have them yet are wary.

Adoption of electronic health records continues to make inroads, with six in 10 healthcare providers having at least part of an EHR system in place, according to the fourth annual "Healthcare IT Insights and Opportunities" survey from IT trade association CompTIA. Still, satisfaction with most systems is lacking.

CompTIA polled 375 doctors, dentists and other care providers, and found a satisfaction rate averaging in the low 60s – indicating "acceptable performance," but leaving much room for improvement, researchers say.

[See also: CompTIA introduces HIT technician certificate]

Among their complaints, providers say they want better ease of use, improved interoperability with other systems, faster speeds, more vendor training and improved remote access and mobility features.

The survey generally finds positive attitudes toward EHRs, especially compared with past polls.

"As users move along the learning curve they become more adept and efficient in leveraging the capabilities of EMR/EHR systems," researchers write.

Still, "relatively few adopters fully understand what an EMR/EHR implementation entails," according to CompTIA. "While many healthcare providers anticipated the disruption associated with a significant workplace transformation, 40 percent indicated their EMR/EHR implementation was actually worse than expected."

[See also: EHR adoption could exceed 80 percent by end of 2013, new study finds]

"Granted, 56 percent  also acknowledged being less than optimally prepared for the transition to EMR/EHR," the report notes. "Additionally, a sizable percentage of healthcare providers didn’t fully understand the impact to workflow, which inevitably may have contributed to frustration. The take-away: for the unprepared, an EMR/EHR implementation can be a challenging endeavor."

Vendors have their work cut out for them if they want to prosper into the future, according to CompTIA.

Providers want vendors to offer "quality from start to finish," the report shows. They want them to deploy EHR systems and ensure they work right; to train them and their staff; to provide and install updates to the system – preferably wirelessly; to offer remote monitoring around the clock, and proactively fix issues as soon as the problem occurs.

"IT solution providers must be extra diligent in communicating the steps of the implementation plan, especially in the pre-implementation stage," according to the report. "This can go a long way towards allaying concerns. For many healthcare providers a transition to EMR/EHR entails not only a physical change in workflow, but also a change in mindset."

With the next wave of EHR adoption to occur among small and mid-size practices, many are still wary of the technical, workflow and cost hurdles, the report shows. Healthcare IT News asked Tim Herbert, CompTIA's vice president research, to elaborate on the report's findings, and to offer some thoughts for providers who are skeptical of making the leap.

Q: Your report shows that 58 percent of providers would be more satisfied with EHRs if they were simpler to use. Why is user-centered design still such a problem with this technology? And what needs to happen to get developers to start paying more attention to it?

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