Physicians see value in EHRs, but want improvements

American physicians see value in electronic health records (EHRs), but they still want substantial improvements, according to a survey by Stanford Medicine and conducted by The Harris Poll.

The survey included the responses of 521 primary care physicians and asked about the current state of EHRs, the impact the technology had on their satisfaction and the potential of EHRs as clinical tools.

"When we first set out to help Stanford Medicine understand the perceptions of electronic health record systems among primary care physicians, the focus was on identifying what problems doctors are encountering to inform the implementation of future solutions," said Deana Percassi, Managing Director at The Harris Poll. "The results of this poll underscore the vital role EHRs play in our national health care conversation."

Findings included:

  1. 63 percent of physicians believe EHRs have improved patient care.
  2. 66 percent are at least somewhat satisfied with their current EHR.
  3. 59 percent think EHRs need a complete overhaul.
  4. 40 percent believe EHRs present more challenges than benefits.
  5. Only 18 percent reported being "very satisfied" with their current system.
  6. 54 percent believe an EHR detracts from their professional satisfaction.
  7. 49 percent think an EHR detracts from their clinical effectiveness.
  8. 74 percent think EHRs have increased the total number of hours they work
  9. 71 percent believe that EHRs greatly contribute to physician burnout.
  10. During an average 20-minute in-person visit, physicians spend 12 minutes interacting with the patient and eight minutes inputting data into the EHR.
  11. 69 percent believed EHRs have not strengthened their relationships with patients.
  12. 44 percent reported the primary value of EHRs to be data storage, while only 3 percent valued its clinical abilities, decision support and patient engagement.

Short-term EHR improvement included:

  • 72 percent of physicians want to see improvements in interface design to eliminate inefficiencies and reduce screen time.
  • 48 percent would like to shift EHR data entry to support staff.
  • 38 percent want an increase in voice recording technology to act as a scribe during visits.

Long-term EHR improvement included:

  • 67 percent believe improvements to interoperability should be the focus in the next decade.
  • 43 percent want improved predictive analytics to support disease diagnosis, prevention and population health management.
  • 32 percent would like to see integration of financial information into EHRs to assist patient in understanding the cost of care options.

"EHRs have transformed how health care is documented in the U.S., but for all the information we've now captured digitally, we are rarely wiser as a result," said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine. “Insights that could lead to better patient care or new medical discoveries remain buried within piles of disconnected data. Moreover, EHR use has eroded professional satisfaction among physicians. This national poll underscores what many physicians have felt for a while: their needs are not reflected enough in the design of these systems. Fixing the problem goes far beyond technology, and it will take many stakeholders working together to make EHRs more user-friendly and capable of achieving their true potential."