Most Physicians Can't Get No EHR Satisfaction

August 12, 2015

If there was ever a love affair between physicians and electronic health records (EHRs), it is definitely over.

Just 34% of physicians said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their EHR system in 2014, down from 62% in 2010, according to a new survey from AmericanEHR Partners, an online resource for buying and using the technology, and the American Medical Association (AMA). Meanwhile, the percentage of physicians unhappy with their system stood at 54% in 2014.

The survey of 940 physicians pinpointed sources of EHR unease:

  • 72% said EHRs made it difficult or very difficult to decrease their workload;

  • 54% complained about higher operating costs;

  • 43% had not yet returned to their pre-EHR level of productivity.

These findings buttress numerous other reports of a backlash against EHRs, often said to reduce physicians to data-entry clerks who are more preoccupied with satisfying federal meaningful use requirements than the patients they're treating.

At the same time, the survey suggests that EHR satisfaction improves with time, especially if physicians pick the right system.

Almost 70% of physicians use just 10 EHR programs, and of these, the survey was able to yield statistically significant conclusions for eight of them. There were only two systems for which the satisfied outnumbered the dissatisfied — Practice Fusion and e-MDs Solution Series. Another system, eClinicalWorks, posted a dissatisfaction rating of less than 50%.

In contrast, more than 50% of physicians who used EpicCare Ambulatory EMR (electronic medical record); Cerner Millennium PowerChart/PowerWorks, and two lines of Allscripts systems said they were dissatisfied. For NextGen Ambulatory EHR, the disgruntled topped 75%. The difficulty of documenting a progress note with these four systems was one gripe.

Across the board of EHR usage measures, satisfaction directly correlated to years with the system. Of physicians who had used their software for 3 years or less, for example, only about 25% reported any degree of satisfaction. But that percentage rose to 50% for physicians logging more than 5 years on their EHR.

On average, primary care physicians in the survey had used their software 1 year longer than their specialist colleagues. Perhaps not surprisingly, the percentage of primary care physicians who said they were satisfied with their system (37%) topped that for specialists (28%).

One way specialists are coping with EHRs is hiring scribes to do the data entry. Thirteen percent of physicians surveyed said they employ a scribe, and, of this group, specialists outnumbered primary care physicians 2 to 1. Another 9% of physicians — again, mostly specialists — said they intended to employ a scribe in the future.

AmericanEHR Partners, which conducted the survey together with the AMA, was created by the American College of Physicians and Cientis Technologies. The American Academy of Family Physicians also participated in the survey.

More information about the survey is available on the website of AmericanEHR Partners.

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