New Medscape Survey Reveals Physicians’ Challenges with EHRs

Medscape Survey Reveals Physicians Challenges with EhrsA vast majority of physicians’ practices across various specialties have implemented electronic health records (EHRs), according Medscape’s 2016 EHR report. The survey revealed that the percentage of current EHR users has risen to 91% – from 74% in Medscape’s 2012 report – with another 5% expecting to switch to the system soon. However, this year’s report also notes that physicians continue to face many challenges with EHR implementation and use.

The key findings of the report are as follows:

  • Design flaws in some EHR models prevented physicians from meeting meaningful use requirements.
  • Digitization of paper charts was reported to be one of the great challenges in implementing an EHR system.
  • Compared to small practices, EHR systems used in large organizations require complex networks and software to manage more activities, more specialties, and more reporting.
  • Ease of EHR use appears to be the most important quality for many physicians. While some organizations provide extensive training on EHR use, many do not, so that physicians end up dealing with operational issues themselves.
  • Vendor support is crucial to satisfaction with an EHR.
  • Despite the relative dissatisfaction with most EHR systems, 81% of physicians said they plan to continue with their current EHRs.
  • Unlike systems for large networks, small-practice systems were generally rated closer to “poor” on the scale when it came to connectivity and interoperability which are critical for care coordination, higher quality, increased safety, and lower cost.
  • Up to 56% of physicians reported that EHRs improve documentation, and a little under a third said they improve patient service (30%), clinical operations (32%), and bill collections (31%).
  • About 21% of respondents said that EHRs have made the documentation process worse, and 25% mentioned barriers to patient service and clinical operations.
  • Up to 57% of respondents complained about deterioration of the physician-patient relationship. This was the keygrievance, with respondents saying that EHRs reduce face-to-face time with patients, and also reduce the number of patients they can see.
  • The copy-and-paste function was found to be the most controversial aspect of EHRs. Though many attorneys strongly caution against its use, many physicians say it is necessary and makes their work easier and faster. The survey found that 31% of physicians often copy and paste, 11% always do so, and 24% do so occasionally. Legal experts say malpractice risks are higher when comments are copied and pasted instead of being written by the physician. This EHR function also increases the possibility or mistakes and makes fraud easier. Due to these reasons, this practice deserves greater attention.

One highlight of the Medscape survey is the tips that respondents offered to improve the patient experience while physicians perform EHR data entry:

  • Look up and make eye contact as often as possible
  • Explain that some important items need to be entered, but you are still listening
  • Learn touch typing
  • Allow patients to see what you are typing
  • Don’t type continuously
  • Write on paper first and enter data into the EHR later

They also recommended entering data at the end of the consult, if possible and avoiding documentation during sensitive discussions.

When it comes to freeing the physician of data entry tasks, EHR-integrated medical transcription services are a viable option. Professional medical transcription companies can help maintain the integrity of the patient record. In fact, electronic health records have changed the role of the conventional medical transcriptionist. They now transcribe directly into the EHR as well as edit medical reports for accuracy. Opting to outsource their EHR data entry requirements is a great way for physicians to overcome many of the clinical documentation challenges that they face.