Health IT

Unsurprisingly, physicians aren’t thrilled with their EHRs

A new survey of 521 licensed primary care physicians found 21 percent are somewhat dissatisfied with their current EHR and 13 percent are very dissatisfied with it.

Note: This post has been updated from an earlier version.

More research shows doctors aren’t 100 percent pleased with all aspects of their electronic health record systems.

In March, The Harris Poll conducted a survey on behalf of Stanford Medicine. Approximately 521 licensed primary care physicians, all of whom had been using their current EHR for at least one month, participated.

Eighteen percent of respondents indicated they are very satisfied with their EHR system. Another 48 percent said they’re somewhat satisfied. But 21 percent noted they’re somewhat dissatisfied, and 13 percent are very dissatisfied.

Despite the decent portion of respondents who are happy with their system, it seems doctors don’t consider EHRs to be clinical tools. In fact, 49 percent somewhat or strongly agreed that using an EHR detracts from their clinical effectiveness. Instead, 44 percent said the primary value of their EHR is as a digital storage tool.

In a recent phone interview, Jay Anders, a physician and the CMO of Medicomp Systems, said he agrees with this assessment.

“[The EHR is] really great at storing data,” he said. However, he noted that the problem is how difficult it is to get data in and out of the system.

Overall, 59 percent of surveyed PCPs believe EHRs need a complete overhaul. When asked about short-term improvements, 72 percent indicated they want an improved EHR user interface design.

Anders elaborated on this point, noting that an unsatisfactory user interface correlates with a lack of collaboration in the industry.

“EMR software companies have a dearth of physicians actually helping them create the product they’re trying to sell for the physician to use,” he said.

Once that collaboration starts to happen, there will be more IT solutions that are tailored specifically to doctors and their needs, Anders noted.

As far as other short-term improvements, 48 percent of PCPs said they want to shift more EHR data entry to support staff. And 38 percent would like highly accurate voice recording technology that acts as a scribe during appointments.

In the larger picture, physicians desire something a little different from EMRs: interoperability. Sixty-seven percent said they would like to see better information sharing in the next decade, and 43 percent said they want improved predictive analytics to support disease diagnosis and prevention. Additionally, 32 percent noted they want financial information integrated into the EHR so patients can understand the cost of their care.

All these improvements are nice to dream about and work toward, but the question remains: Will physicians ever be satisfied with their EHRs?

“Yes, I think there will be a time when the bulk of physicians will be OK with what they have,” Anders said. “That’s going to take work.”

Part of that work, he said, involves the aforementioned better interaction between EHR manufacturers and EHR users.

It may also take a few generations of physicians before PCPs can be happy with their digital tools. “I think it’ll happen somewhat slowly,” Anders said.

Photo: Mutlu Kurtbas, Getty Images