Healthcare News & Insights

4 things doctors hate about EHRs

As more healthcare organizations are adopting electronic health records, doctors are becoming more frustrated with those EHR systems.

That’s the conclusion of a study presented by the American College of Physicians and AmericanEHR Partners at the recent Healthcare Information Management Systems Society Annual Conference in New Orleans.

Overall satisfaction with EHR systems dropped by 12% in 2012 compared to 2010, according to the study. In addition, among the 4,200 physicians surveyed, 39% said they would not recommend their current EHR system to a colleague — an increase from 24% who said the same thing in 2010.

These are some of the specific complaints doctors have about their EHR systems — and what hospitals can do to keep these issues from having an impact on operations:

1. EHR systems are difficult to use

Many of physicians’ problems with EHRs stem from the fact that the systems are often difficult to use, especially for experienced doctors who have been using paper charts for several years and may not be technologically savvy.

And EHR systems haven’t become more user friendly as they’ve grown in popularity. In fact, 37% of physicians said they were very dissatisfied with their EHR system’s ease of use, up from 23% in 2010. At the same time, the rate of doctors who said their system was easy to work with dropped from 61% to 48%.

To get the most out of an EHR implementation, healthcare organizations need to make sure the people who will actually use the system will be able to do so comfortably and without a long-term negative impact on their productivity. One way to do that: Get doctors, nurses and other users involved in viewing software demos and other parts of the EHR selection process.

2. Doctors don’t get enough training

Another issue related to a system’s ease of use: EHR training. In addition to finding the systems difficult to use because of how they’re designed, many doctors report that they aren’t given enough training to use systems effectively.

And according to a 2011 study, the amount of EHR training doctors receive is directly related to how satisfied they are with a system. Some EHR training keys to keep in mind:

  • Before training sessions begin, determine what experience, if any, doctors already have with EHR systems or similar software so training can be tailored accordingly.
  • Get trainees up-to-speed on basic computer skills before EHR training begins, if necessary.
  • Make sure doctors understand how the training will benefit them — i.e., knowing how to use EHRs properly will improve their ability to care for patients.
  • Don’t train too soon — practices should avoid having a long gap between when doctors are taught how to use the EMR system and when the system actually goes live.

In addition to the initial training that takes place when a system is implemented, it’s important to offer refresher courses on a regular basis and reference materials and other tools that allow doctors to quickly answer questions they may run into during the course of their work. Examples include online guides user forums where people can discuss issues.

3. Vendors don’t provide enough support

With any big software implementation, it’s important that the organization gets enough technical support to handle user problems and fix problems — and that’s especially the case for critical systems like EHRs that need to stay up and running at all times.

However, among the doctors polled by the American College of Physicians and AmericanEHR Partners, satisfaction with customer service dropped by 11% compared to 2010.

One step healthcare organizations can take to make sure they’re going to get enough support from an EHR vendor: Check with vendor references and ask how responsive the company has been regarding questions and maintenance issues.

Also, providers can negotiate for support terms, especially in the case of cloud-based EHR services — for example, the cloud contract should list a specific up-time guarantee, with penalties if the guarantee isn’t met.

4. EHRs sometimes decrease efficiency

Among other benefits, EHR systems are supposed to make doctors more productive so they can spend less time on administrative tasks and more time helping patients. However, that’s not always the case when a system is implemented, as 34% of doctors say their current EHR system hasn’t helped decrease their workload.

In one extreme example, an Ohio hospital last year reported a two-fold increase in the amount of time patients had to wait for treatment after an EHR system was implemented.

What can healthcare organizations do to avoid significant disruptions during a switch to electronic health records? Here are some of the steps the hospital to improve the situation:

  • Schedule additional staff — Having more employees on hand can help ease a painful EHR transition.
  • Tweak the system — The hospital’s physician and nursing leadership is also looking at the EHR system to discover issues that hamper efficiency and will make any necessary tweaks.
  • Educate patients — The hospital has given all patients a handout explaining the system and the benefits of electronic health records, and information about the system has been displayed on electronic screens in the facility. Though some patients have complained because of the longer wait times, officials said most have been understanding.

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