Physicians air EHR frustrations

By Mike Miliard
01:39 PM

The physicians' words read like a horror story.

"The promise that the EHR will reduce workload and improve error rates in patient care has not materialized."

"Changing to this EHR has decreased productivity and markedly increased time to complete documentation."

"The workflow is horrible! 'Task' has become a four letter word."

Clearly, some docs are having trouble with meaningful use. Indeed, as William S Underwood, senior associate at the American College of Physicians, noted in an education session Tuesday at HIMSS13, there's been a 15 percent increase in reports that practices are "very dissatisfied" with their EHRs since 2010.

That's not something that should be ignored. "It's very important to think about, as far as policy implications and strategies as we move forward with meaningful use," said Underwood.

In their session, "Challenges with Meaningful Use: EHR Satisfaction & Usability Diminishing," Underwood and Alan Brookstone, MD, chief executive officer of Vancouver, B.C.-based Cientis Technologies, took a look at the hurdles and headaches of physicians and specialists as they try to meet meaningful use, drawing on the results of a survey that polled thousands of clinicians over three years.

The numbers are almost as scary as the anecdotes.

There's been a 12 percent increase in dissatisfaction with features and functionality of EHRs between 2010 and 2012. There's been a 14 percent increase in dissatisfaction with ease of use. There's been an 11 percent increase in dissatisfaction with customer support.

Thirty-nine percent of those polled would not recommend their EHR to a colleague. Thirty-eight percent would not purchase the same EHR again.

Satisfaction and usability ratings are dropping – regardless of specialty type and across vendors. As they work to meet meaningful use, providers are struggling with workload and productivity.

"We need to think of some ways to decrease physicians' workload," said Underwood.

Still, there are glimmers of hope. There's been a 20 percent increase in the use of patient portals since 2010, for instance.

And providers are willing to do the work – as long as they have a good vendor partner that's willing to work alongside them at every step.

"It is the support and technical backup that makes a good EHR company," said one end-user.

Brookstone noted that longitudinal research has shown a satisfaction uptick after EHRs have been in place for five years or so.

"There may be that critical point where you're using an EHR for a certain point of time before you improve patient care," he said.

The imperative, obviously, is to "compress that time frame down."

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(Photo by Sturti/ Getty Images) 

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