Electronic health records (EHRs) have become a focal point for the perceived negatives of value-based healthcare. Such care has both its strong and weak points, with EHRs being among the latter. That has some executives wondering if better EHRs could actually have an impact on quality of care. Furthermore, would better EHR technology improve the hospital-doctor relationship?
The question arises from the fact that EHRs have been a source of clinician complaints since their inception. EHR systems are notoriously complicated, very often unreliable, and terribly non-standardized. Doctors continually talk of the frustrations of having to work with EHRs while spending less time with patients.
Satisfaction Among Employed Doctors
EHR problems are most prevalent in hospitals and group practices. That is a big deal for doctors, especially when you consider that just over 49% of all physicians practicing in the U.S. now either work at a hospital or for a medical group. According to a Physicians Foundation survey, more than 50% of doctors receive at least some of their pay via a hospital system or group.
That same survey discovered quite a bit of dissatisfaction among hospital-employed doctors. Moreover, not even 3% of those surveyed believe that hospital employment increases quality of care or decreases costs. The doctors expressed concern that hospital goals do not always line up with physician goals.
Once again, this has executives wondering if EHR technology has anything to do with it. They wonder if better EHR systems would increase satisfaction among hospitalists by shifting things, at least a little bit, back to the way they used to be. Give doctors more time with patients and less time addressing EHRs and maybe their satisfaction improves.
They Want to Practice Medicine
Improving EHR technology is not likely to eliminate all dissatisfaction among hospital and group-employed doctors. But common sense seems to indicate some improvement would be observed. After all, doctors chose medicine as a career because they actually want to treat patients. They did not go to medical school to sit in front of a computer and enter data.
Another thing to consider is the possibility of integrating EHR with other healthcare IT elements like scheduling, billing, and performance tracking. If all these systems could be combined into a single solution that actually works, caregivers across the board would have more opportunity to get back to their patients.
Standardization, Simplicity, and Reliability
Imagine that a better, more integrated EHR system was ready to go tomorrow. What would it look like? For starters, there would be some standardization. Right now, every vendor working on an EHR system is doing its own thing. The lack of standardization makes it nearly impossible for doctors to switch between systems – especially among locum tenens doctors who may work in half-a-dozen facilities per year.
Second, a better system would be a more simple system. There has to be a way to reduce the total number of billing codes now in use. There has to be simpler ways to enter data, and to do it once rather than multiple times. If smart minds can make shopping on Amazon streamlined and easy, it doesn’t make sense that EHRs should be so complicated.
Finally, a better system would be a more reliable system with plenty of built-in redundancy and fewer opportunities for clinicians to make mistakes. Doctors remember the days before EHR, the days when they kept records in whatever ways were most reliable for them.
Could better EHR Tech improve the hospital-doctor relationship? Some people believe so. Time will tell, but only if a better system is eventually developed and implemented.