Physicians Who Dislike EHRs Cite Lower Productivity

November 21, 2013

Of physicians using electronic health record (EHR) systems, just as many are unhappy about their experience as they are happy, mainly because the technology makes them less productive, according to a new poll commissioned by the high-tech research firm IDC.

Forty-two percent of physicians said they were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their EHR, and another 42% reported the opposite. Sixteen percent checked off "neutral" in the online survey of some 200 physicians conducted by MedData Group on behalf of IDC. The survey results were released last week.

Recent studies point to a considerable physician backlash against EHRs, stoked by complaints of hard-to-use software that reduces face-time with patients. The IDC survey is one more voice in this chorus. It found that of the 58% of physicians who either dislike their EHRs or are lukewarm about them, 85% said they are spending more time documenting patient visits, and 66% said they are seeing fewer patients. More than half called their software difficult to use.

Dashed expectations about improved productivity may explain why some physicians have sounded bitter about their fling with electronic charts. When IDC asked physicians in 2010 about their objectives for using EHRs, reducing costs topped the list of responses, followed closely by improving productivity. In 2013, the number-one objective is meeting regulatory requirements for EHR use, with improving the quality of care and earning federal meaningful-use bonuses in second and third place, respectively. Increasing productivity as an objective fell to fourth place; reducing costs, to eighth place.

"If we consider the stated objectives...those who were dissatisfied were more likely to be disappointed by the lack of broader benefits that were expected from their EHRs," said IDC Research Director Judy Hanover in a webinar devoted to the survey.

Among satisfied EHR users, the thing they like the most are charts that never get lost (82%), the ability to access charts remotely (75%), and meaningful-use bonuses (56%). Only 1 in 5 praised EHRs for helping them increase their productivity and see more patients.

Hanover said EHR vendors have their work cut out for them in boosting the number of happy customers. "Bells and whistles really don't matter," she said. "Vendors are failing on the basics."

More information on the survey of EHR users is available on the IDC Web site.

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