Physicians want to pressure vendors to improve EHRs

Many doctors are profoundly unhappy with the capabilities of their electronic health records systems, and calls are growing for vendors to do better.

That’s one of the major findings from an annual survey by Medical Economics of how physicians feel about the capabilities of their EHR systems. More than 1,000 physicians responded to the survey, with nearly half saying their EHR has harmed the quality of care within the practice, rather than improving it.

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Close up of mature male doctor using digital tablet

Complaints about EHR systems include:

  • Lack of user-friendliness because the records are not organized the way clinicians have been taught to organize patient notes, and they have to click too many times to find information, and problem lists are designed to only get ICD-10 codes correct.
  • Exchanging information remains difficult because ambulatory and hospital EHRs don’t share information easily, so physicians often can’t use their own EHR in the hospital.
  • Physician productivity appears to have suffered a permanent hit because clinical documentation takes so much time.
  • Doctor-patient relationships are hindered because doctors spend too much time on the computers when they would rather be listening to patients.
  • Maintenance and upgrade costs continue to soar because physicians are forced to use EHRs, “so the vendors stick it to us” a provider noted.
  • EHRs are not designed for patient care but for billing, tracking and enabling insurers and others to audit clinicians.

“Results of the 2019 Electronic Health Records Scorecard provide further evidence to support what physicians have been telling us for years,” says Chris Mazzolini, editorial director at Medical Economics.

“EHR vendors and the government that regulates and credentials them must do a better job of engaging with physicians when designing and improving these crucial systems,” he adds. “Physicians need EHRs that are usable, can talk to each other and generally make their day easier so they can improve patient outcomes in today’s complex healthcare landscape.”

During the past seven years, there has been little improvement in electronic health records functionality, and vendor support has shown no improvement over that period, Mazzolini contends. At best, on a 1-to-10 scale, functionality has hovered around 4 or 5 with little improvement in being able to share records and to get data from wearables into the EHR.

What has changed is that doctors don’t like the present environment of support, but in large part they won’t change their vendors, he explains. Physicians believe they need a seat at the table with vendors as they are forced to use the technology but presently don’t have a hand in their systems and advising the vendors.

Overwhelmingly, physicians don’t want to go back to paper, Mazzolini says. “They like technology and see enough potential benefits, but haven’t seen improvements. They just want technology that actually works."

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