Blog | Tuesday, September 1, 2015

News flash, physicians increasingly dissatisfied with EHRs

The survey on Physicians Use of EHR Systems 2014 found that close to, or more than half of all respondents, reported a negative impact in response to questions about how their EHR system improved costs, efficiency or productivity.

Physicians have become increasingly unhappy with EHRs. We really did not need a survey to document this.

The real question is why? I think logical thinking can reveal the answer.

Why do we use information technology in general? We use smartphones, pads and computers when they improve our lives. No one makes me buy a computer. I buy the computer because of the value it gives me. I buy software (or apps) because I find them helpful.

Throughout our economy, information technology must provide value. Developers have to demonstrate value to those who spend money on systems.

Electronic health records are being imposed on health care systems. They are not being sold as helping physicians do their work. In addition to this problem, the government has mandated meaningful use (a term that physicians often ridicule). When you impose technology on users, then an important development piece is missed – user friendliness. Every system that my friends describe has made the user's (physicians, nurses and other health care workers) charting more difficult. No one asked the physicians how they work. No one has designed a system to be health care worker friendly. We are expected to figure out the system, rather than the way most computer programs are developed.

Bob Wachter, in his important book Digital Doctor, explains the care that goes into developing airplane computer systems. No one thinks the same processes occur in health care.

How does this matter? EHRs add time to the physician's day. EHRs contribute to physician burnout, a major problem that negatively impacts patients. We should all speak out about this problem.

db is the nickname for Robert M. Centor, MD, FACP. db stands both for Dr. Bob and da boss. He is an academic general internist at the University of Alabama School of Medicine, and is the Regional Associate Dean for the Huntsville Regional Medical Campus of UASOM. He still makes inpatient rounds over 100 days each year. This post originally appeared at his blog, db's Medical Rants.