Over the past 4 years, there has been a major shift in the world of healthcare. The medical community has had greater influence from the government, insurance companies, lawyers, and like the rest of our society, an overarching increase in digital technology. Thus, the emergence of mainstream electronic health records (EHRs).
People in present day society are said to have far less friends and spend much more time alone than those of past generations. However, despite this lack of intimate “friends” and classic social engagement, these modern day individuals have an exceptionally larger social network in which they seek support via digital communication rather than face-to-face interaction. The same is being argued about healthcare. People want everything from music, email, photos, and now, even health records, accessible anywhere, any time. Due to this new digital medical network, doctor and patient relationships have drastically changed.
Charles Krauthammer states in the Washington Post “EHR has greatly impacted the medical community in more ways than one.” He specifically refers to its effect on patient care. The increased amount of required documentation has resulted in less time to see patients. However, are the changes in doctor, patient relationships Krauthammer depicts strictly negative? Does more data entry and electronic forms have to mean less eye contact, less compassion, less time?
Important, private aspects of our lives, from banking to education, have all gone electronic. Why shouldn’t healthcare? If a teacher can correspond with and even teach a class through an online database, why can’t a doctor do the same? If you can get financial advice online, why not seek medical advice from a site like HealthTap?
Although many new technologies are empowering patients to take more control over their healthcare, physician feedback from the AmericanEHR community of 25,000+ clinicians suggests that technology has not yet found the efficiencies for care providers that have been gained by other industries.
- “This is remarkably poor software. It makes every part of practice more difficult and removes focus from patient care to clicking boxes,” comments a Physician in General Internal Medicine.
- “Internal IT work and training over time is substantial and ongoing. The pace of change is a bit hard on the staff and often distracts from direct patient care,” comments a Physician in General Practice/Family Medicine.
- “EHR is all about data entry. It’s expensive and unavoidable. Without using a scribe it’s a detraction from caring for patients,” comments a Physician in General Practice/Family Medicine.
Increased documentation means increased data entry for physicians, and as such, they have less time to deal directly with their patients. While some industries like education may not require direct eye-contact to deliver services at a high level, medicine requires not only delivery of information, but the ability to interact with, assess patients, and in many cases, provide them with a level of personal comfort.
EHRs are not intended to replace patient care with data entry. By definition, Meaningful Use is intended to stimulate the utilization of EHR technology to:
- Improve quality, safety, efficiency, and reduce health disparities
- Engage patients and family
- Improve care coordination, and population and public health
- Maintain privacy and security of patient health information
All is not lost for technology in medicine. Some new evidence suggests that Patient-centered medical homes (PCHMs) have been demonstrating improved care. EHR’s are full of promise, and there is mounting evidence that many of the frustrations associated with EHR’s are based on factors that can (and should) be mitigated, such as lack of stakeholder involvement in the selection process, and inadequate training.
The most important thing to stress with EHR satisfaction is “patience.” EHR satisfaction has been shown to increase with time. Perhaps a large degree of what we are witnessing currently is simply a market that is going through some growing pains. Our hope at AmericanEHR is that our community feedback can help draw attention to the areas that are most in need of improvement, and we also encourage medical practitioners to keep up-to-date with our blog and reports in order to stay in the know with best practices that can help turn their EHR pain into gain.