Survey reveals docs' perceptions of EHRs as potential buyers, users

By Molly Merrill
09:10 AM

Meaningful use remains the strongest driver to implement electronic health records for physicians, according to a new survey that finds both potential EHR buyers and current users valuing the technology, but with substantially different perceptions and expectations.

Sage Healthcare Division, a developer of electronic health records for medical practices across North America, worked with Forester to conduct a survey among physicians nationwide in an effort to examine perceptions and determine attitudes toward these systems. The sample included both physicians using EHR and those in the market for the technology.

The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of potential cost savings, benefits of these systems to small and mid-sized practices and to find any intangibles of using EHRs, such as physicians providing care from multiple locations or helping physicians have more time away from the office because of increased mobility and connectivity.

“Implementation of EHRs in the U.S. continue to grow as an increased number of physicians and staff gain a better understanding of  the efficiency and cost-saving benefits of using the technology,” said Betty Otter-Nickerson, president of the Sage Healthcare Division. “However, a significant number of office-based practices have yet to implement an EHR solution. Sage’s survey was conducted to examine current perceptions and predominant trends that will help us design the best solutions to maximize the benefits of EHR.”

The survey findings indicated that meaningful use incentives are still one of the strongest drivers for most physicians (64 percent) to implement EHR technology, but for 32 percent of those who are in the market for EHRs, insufficient capital is still a key challenge to the switch.

The survey found that EHR users said they measure their success through reporting and tracking healthcare outcomes (64 percent) and error reduction (62 percent), but those who have yet to purchase EHR responded they would measure EHR success through increased revenue (74 percent) followed by reporting and tracking healthcare outcomes (60 percent).

Also, current EHR users are more aware of additional benefits than those who haven’t implemented the technology yet and expected achievements with EHR are stronger for those who have already purchased the solution.

Key findings of the survey in general:

  • 77 percent saw ease of use and quickness as a top characteristic in an EHR solution
  • 39 percent of respondents ranked improved and timely access to accurate patient information as the most important reason to achieve their EHR goals, followed by reduced time spent in information search and management (34 percent)
  • Physicians who have already implemented EHRs perceive more value in lower costs and improved staff efficiency than those in the market for an EHR solution (35 percent versus 25 percent)
  • When surveyed physicians were asked about SaaS as an alternative to an in-office solution, both those with or without EHR (39 percent) had security and data privacy concerns about the outsourced solution

For EHR users:

  • Physicians who have already implemented EHR largely reached their business goals of lower costs and improved patient service (80 percent) and improved staff efficiency (74 percent)
  • 72 percent of those surveyed saw the increased availability of floor space that was previously occupied by paper records as a major advantage of EHR, second only to reduced administrative costs (82 percent)
  • 56 percent see error reduction as the number one tangible benefit of EHR, followed by ability to share patient information (38 percent)
  • 68 percent have seen mobile access to information as the biggest intangible benefit of EHR (34 percent)
  • Of all the EHR users surveyed, 52 percent said that reduced paper and office expenses saved them the most money
  • 76 percent of respondents said they would invest in EHR again

For non-EHR Users:

  • Of all non-EHR users, 30 percent would prefer having in-office EHR to an outsourced solution, such as SaaS or off-client software

“Some of our EHR customers have indicated they are spending more time away from the clinic because of the system’s efficiency and accessibility off-site,” said Otter-Nickerson. “This accessibility also saves them time during each patient visit, which translates into more quality time spent with the patient. Another great advantage of EHR is that doctors can look up a patient’s entire history and have a comprehensive view of their health. Consequently, doctors can make more informed decisions, thus improving the quality of care and potentially generating better health outcomes.”