Why Do Doctors Dislike Electronic Health Records?
Do you ever get the sinking feeling your doctor is so busy typing notes into a laptop, he or she doesn't hear what you are trying to say about your symptoms? No, it’s not just you who thinks so; according to a survey of physicians who use electronic health records (EHR) systems every day, all of that mandatory note-taking is interfering with patient care, and causing doctor burnout. Read on to learn what doctors say is wrong with the computerization of healthcare, and how they want it to be fixed...
Do Electronic Health Records REDUCE Patient Care?
Stanford Medicine, the umbrella name for the prestigious California medical school and its associated hospitals, conducted a poll of 521 primary care physicians (PCPs) with the aid of The Harris Poll. The survey of doctors' perceptions of Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems focused on problems that PCPs encounter with EHRs, and there are some pretty big ones.
Doctors are not exactly enthralled with EHR systems. Only 66% are even “somewhat satisfied” with the EHR systems they use. Put another way, 40% of PCPs say electronic health records are more trouble than they are worth. For every hour of patient contact, doctors spend almost 2 hours entering data in EHR systems. It’s not to see why when we look at how much of a PCP’s time is chewed up by EHRs.
Another study from the American Journal of Medicine shows the correlation between EHR and doctor burnout, which in turn results in medical errors, lower quality of care, higher costs, and overall worse outcomes. Doctor burnout is bad not only for the patients, who see the physician as irritable or impatient, but it also contributes to depression, substance abuse, and alarming rates rates of suicide among doctors.
An astounding 62% of “patient time” is spent in the EHR system, the docs reported. Assuming an office visit is scheduled to last 15 minutes, that means your doctor has only 5 minutes, 42 seconds to spend talking with you, and those seconds are reduced by the obligatory “Take deep breaths… now breathe normally… say ‘Ahhh...’” routine. So the next time your doctor is running late, remember that he may be trying to actually practice medicine as well as type.
Many PCPs have little discretion about how much time they can spend examining and talking with patients instead of feeding data to “the system.” Large healthcare corporations own many primary care practices, and those corporations require data for a variety of reasons. The data is required by insurers to be used in setting reimbursement rates. The government incentivizes data collection through Medicare and Medicaid programs that tie physician pay, in part, to proper documentation of a patient’s diagnosis, treatment, and health outcome.
Seventy-one percent of PCPs surveyed agree that EHRs “greatly contribute to burnout.” Fifty-nine percent agree that EHR systems they use “need a complete overhaul.” This is no surprise because EHR systems tend to be designed by computer programmers who do not have to work with patients.
Benefits of Electronic Healthcare Records?
The primary benefit that 44% of PCPs see in EHR systems is “data storage,” not better patient health outcomes. Your doctor, too, feels like just a cog in a machine.
Efforts are being made to address mental health concerns of doctors, which result in poorer patient care. Seventy-two percent of PCPs feel that improving the user interface is the most important thing that EHR system designers should be pursuing right now. Sixty-seven percent believe that interoperability deficiencies are the most important thing to address during the coming decade. If that means I won’t have to repeatedly write the same info on “new patient intake” paper forms over and over, then I am all for interoperability! But we have a long way to go before we get there.
Recently, a friend got some X-rays taken at an imaging center whose office was nothing short of palatial. The specialist who ordered the scans had an equally well-appointed office. During intake, he was asked if he would like to be part of a program that allows physicians to access his images electronically. “Where do I sign?” he asked immediately. But on his way out, he had to wait five minutes while his images were copied to a CD, which he was told to give to his specialist on his next visit. It's occasions like that one for which the “facepalm” was invented.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
electronic health records, why doctors hate electronic health records, digital health records, computerized healthcare records
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 14 Aug 2020
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Why Do Doctors Dislike Electronic Health Records? (Posted: 14 Aug 2020)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved