What physicians really think about EHRs

New research from MPI Group and Medical Economics paints a dismal picture of how physicians really feel about electronic health record (EHR) systems. With the implementation of EHRs, physicians have faced immense costs, the need to hire additional staff members, and a loss in productivity levels—all of which have contributed to their overwhelmingly negative attitudes toward the health information technology.

The recent study surveyed about 1,000 physicians from across the nation and found that 70 percent of them believe EHR systems have not been worth the effort, resources, and costs involved. Nearly two-thirds of respondents wouldn’t purchase their current EHR system again — primarily due to dissatisfaction with functionality and high costs.

And the costs are certainly high. About 45 percent of survey respondents spent more than $100,000 on their EHR systems to cover costs associated with hardware, software, training, consulting, and more. And 77 percent of the largest practices spent more than $200,000.

But what about those promised government incentives? According to Medical Economics, physicians can earn $44,000 through the Medicare EHR Meaningful Use (MU) program and $63,750 through Medicaid’s MU program. Now add those two numbers together and compare the sum to those previously mentioned EHR system costs—which don’t include the additional and ongoing funds required to hire and retain more staff, or the loss of revenue from decreased productivity. It’s clear why physicians are frustrated.

The reasons for implementing an EHR system are many. They aim to achieve goals such as better quality patient care, improved communication and sharing of data between providers, as well as increased efficiencies.

The bad news? Physicians don’t feel like EHR systems have fulfilled any of those purposes.

In fact, 45 percent feel that patient care is actually worse since implementing an EHR system. About 69 percent believe coordination of care with hospitals has not improved as promised. And as many as 65 percent of physicians say their EHR systems have resulted in financial losses for the practice—with 38 percent reporting significant losses. (On the other side of the ledger, only 6 percent reported experiencing significant savings.)

Physicians’ outlook for the future isn’t very optimistic either. While 74 percent of respondents believe their EHR vendors will be in business over the next five years, 38 percent doubt their system will be viable within that same time frame.

So what can be done to repair the situation? Physicians are looking for solutions to functionality and usability issues. They want systems that can deliver on the promises of quality patient care, improved care coordination, and increased efficiencies. But until EHR technology aligns with practice workflow needs, standardizes communication between providers, and enhances physician-patient interactions rather than complicates them, doctors can only work to minimize the pain.

 

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