Do EMRs Improve Patient Care? Most Patients Say Yes

by:
on July 11, 2018

Electronic medical records systems are kind of like the mayonnaise of the medical world: you either love them or you hate them. And studies have shown that more than half of physicians who use electronic health record (EHR) software fall in the “hate” category. Common complaints include higher operating costs, struggles to decrease workloads using EHRs and a lack of access to patient data.

When we post on our Facebook page about EHRs, we never fail to receive comments from physicians and office managers about how awful these systems are.

Physicians express grievances about EHRs on Facebook
Physicians share common sentiments about EHRs on our Facebook page

In the quotes above, Facebook commenter Peter brings up one of the biggest points of contention: Many physicians believe that EHRs do not improve patient care. According to Medscape’s most recent EHR report, physicians really hate the way EHRs interfere with patient interactions.

In the survey, 25 percent of physicians said the implementation of EHRs had a negative impact on their patient services, and 45 percent said they experienced no change whatsoever after switching to electronic records.

For many physicians, learning a new EHR system takes time away from treating patients. In turn, physicians implement their EHRs too hastily, skip through detailed tutorials and procrastinate on defining best practices.

When practices rush EHR implementation, they’re bound to face operational challenges that make it seem like patient care and patient satisfaction are suffering due to the newly installed tech.

But that’s a false narrative. We ran a survey of over 200 U.S. patients to find out how they feel about physicians using electronic devices to take notes during exams, and we found that most aren’t bothered by EHRs at all.

When physicians take the time to learn and use EHR systems correctly, patients appreciate their benefits. The sooner you embrace your EHR, the sooner you and your patients get to enjoy faster, more streamlined processes.

Key Takeaways:


    • Eighty percent of patients prefer physicians to use an electronic method of recording medical notes over pen and paper methods. [Read more]

 

 

  • According to patients, long wait times and unfriendly staff have a far more negative impact on satisfaction than the use of EHRs during exams. [Read more]

Patients Prefer EHRs Over Pen and Paper

Physicians’ common complaints about EHRs come from a good place: They show that doctors are genuinely concerned about providing the best care for their patients. Moreover, they truly want electronic recording systems that provide an excellent patient experience. According to patients, though, EHRs do improve their experiences.

In 2017, HEALTHeLINK found that 51 percent of patients believe EHRs make health care safer.

In our own survey, we asked patients if they would prefer their doctors to take notes using an electronic device or pen and paper. Of the respondents who indicated a preference, a whopping 80 percent said they would rather see their physicians using electronic methods, and only 5 percent strongly preferred pen and paper.

Patient Preference for EHRs vs. Pen and Paper
PATIENT PREFERENCE FOR EHRS VS PEN AND PAPER
The reasons for this preference include advantages such as:

    • EHRs save patients’ time in waiting rooms and offer more accessible medical records.

 

    • Patient portal features provide patients with more information and control over their health care experience.

 

  • Improved diagnostics can greatly inform treatment decisions and planning.

Patients Like Scribes More Than Recording Devices

When it comes to how physicians actually use their EHRs during exams, patients do have some preferences.

First and foremost, we asked patients to what extent physicians’ using electronic devices during exams would bother them, and the majority (75 percent) said not at all.

Patients Aren’t Bothered by Electronic Devices During Exams
PATIENTS AREN
This might be a surprise to some physicians who feel that using tablets, laptops or desktops during an exam makes it more difficult to connect with patients. In an effort to get around this perceived interference between them and their patients, many physicians have adopted these practices:

    • Delegating note taking tasks to “scribes” (i.e., a medical assistant who takes notes and collects other information while the physician conducts the exam).

 

    • Using recording devices during exams and then going back to transcribe notes.

 

  • Leaving the room to record notes and then returning to finish the exam.

But how do patients feel about these strategies? When asked about all three, patients in our survey showed more acceptance of scribes than the other two, but the majority of patients were fine with all three.

How Patients Feel About Scribes
How Patients Feel About Recording Devices
How Patients Feel About Physicians Leaving the Room to Take Notes
The trend here is that patients don’t seem to mind approaches that help physicians set aside note taking in order to better focus on the patient and the exam. Patients get the benefit of their doctors’ undivided attention without sacrificing accuracy when it comes to note taking.

EHRs Don’t Make Patients Unhappy; Long Wait Times Do

Lastly, we asked patients to rank some of the most common complaints in order to figure out which issues are the most irksome.

What we found was that the majority of patients are far more concerned with issues such as long wait times and unfriendly staff than they are with physicians using electronic devices.

Patient Complaints, Ranked
PATIENTS COMPLAINTS, RANKED

This tells us that when it comes to improving patient encounters, physicians shouldn’t be concerned about the use of EHRs. Instead, they need to pay attention to more immediate and pressing issues affecting their patients. These issues can include overbooking, missed appointments or staff-related delays.

Recommended Actions

If you’re one of the many physicians reluctant to implement an EHR due to how it could impact patients, hopefully this research has helped address your misgivings. A well-deployed EHR offers a ton of benefits to physicians, and patients will increasingly expect the benefits EHRs provide.

If you’re still unsure how to get the most out of an EHR, you can check out some of our other articles for tips and ideas:

 

 

 

And of course, if you want to learn more about EHR software, you can always reach out to our team of expert advisors by calling (855) 998-8505.

Demographics

To obtain the information presented in this report, we conducted a survey of 204 patients within the U.S. who have seen a physician. The majority of our survey respondents were males between the ages of 26 and 45.

Patient Demographics by Gender
Patient Demographics by Age

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