Tech Answers: Overcoming Physician Resistance to EMRs at Your Practice

By: on October 11, 2017

In our Tech Answers series, we pour through search engines, social media and online communities to find three burning software questions that need definitive answers.

Small medical practices face numerous challenges while implementing a new electronic medical records (EMR) system, but none of them is quite as tricky as physician resistance.

Even the best, most streamlined EMR solutions fail without physician buy-in. And because the physician resistance varies from individual to individual, anticipating issues and adjusting accordingly can be quite difficult.

What exactly is the impact of a new EMR on physicians? What are the different ways to prevent doctor burnout? Below, we’ll answer three of your most burning physician resistance questions.

tech answers medical

Q1: What Influences Physician Satisfaction With a New EMR?

Physician satisfaction, during deployment of a new EMR, depends on two major factors:

  • Clear and timely communication
  • Physician involvement

In recent years, physician satisfaction with respect to their EMR system has decreased significantly. According to an American Medical Association (AMA) 2014 survey, only 34 percent of the respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied with their current electronic health records (EHR) systems—down from 61 percent in 2009.

In addition, according to a 2016 survey of 1,053 physicians, a majority of physicians are not happy with their existing EHR technology largely due to lack of desired functionality and poor usability. Some other reasons that physicians mentioned were non-availability of patient satisfaction data, lack of integrated patient portal and no reduction in operating costs.

This is not great data, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible to satisfy the physicians that use your EMR. Here’s what you need:

  • Clear and timely communication: The biggest key to overcoming the above challenges is proper communication. Medical practices must start communicating with physicians in advance, starting from the initial planning stages days. Physicians must be aware of all the benefits that the new EMR system will offer. In addition, practices must be honest about the solution’s capabilities—and even limitations—to avoid frustrating surprises down the line.
  • Physician involvement: Secondly, physician involvement must be encouraged at all stages. Since modern EMR systems are highly configurable, medical practices must make accurate decisions to support adoption and acceptance. The involvement of physicians in EMR selection, configuration, implementation and training will help in better adoption across the medical practice due to their specialty-specific knowledge.

physician engagement

Regular physician engagement (Source: American Medical Association)

In addition, make sure that all other medical staff members are involved in the EMR configuration process along with the physicians for smooth operations in future.

You’ll want to cater your EMR to your specific practice’s needs, but keep in mind that there’s no such thing as perfect software. Even in a small medical practice with 2-3 physicians, there will always be challenges and complaints about any given EMR solution. Highlighting the benefits at every turn will go a long way towards ensuring it’s a good fit for your practice—and your physicians.

Q2: How Do EMRs Improve Patient Care?

EMRs improve patient care in the following ways:

  • Better health care decisions
  • Reduced manual errors
  • Better management of patient records
  • Reduced costs

According to a 2017 survey involving 3,000 physicians, only 30% are of the opinion that EMR solutions will have a positive impact on the quality of patient care. Once again, physician opinion is not in touch with the realities of EMR systems.

When used effectively, EMRs immensely improve patient care. They do so in the following ways:

  • Better health care decisions: EMRs enable physicians to assess the patient’s health thoroughly in less time and also reduce the chances of overlooking other dangerous symptoms. The system also helps physicians get a quick view of a patient’s medical history for better diagnosis.
  • Reduced manual errors: Physicians often prescribe medicine to patients on the basis of their present situation only, due to lack of complete patient records. This can occasionally lead to the wrong diagnosis. EMRs enable physicians to provide the correct medication based on a patient’s history and help prevent allergic reactions to incorrect medications, thus eliminating human errors.
  • Better management of patient records: EMRs enable physicians to manage patient records in an easy, safe and quickly-accessible manner that helps in better and timely patient care. Physicians get freedom from bulky paper records that are difficult to store, manage and retrieve.

AdvancedMD patient records

  • Reduced costs: For the paper records system, patients who visit multiple physicians often end up paying multiple times to different physicians. But EMRs help reduce patient costs by sharing test results with all physicians, thus enhancing patient care.

Q3: How Do You Prevent Doctor Burnout When Transitioning to a New EMR?

Doctor burnout can be prevented by:

  • Choosing an EMR champion
  • Using a patient portal
  • Involving physicians during new EMR selection process

Physician burnout is on the rise and it’s a serious issue: it can result in an increased amount of medical errors and lower the quality of care for patients. So the question stands: Are EMRs to blame for growing physician burnout?

According to a 2016 survey by Mayo Clinic and AMA involving 6,560 physicians, a majority of respondents blamed EHR systems for clerical burden, emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and decrease in personal accomplishment—all of which combine to form physician burnout.

EMR systems in general cannot be blamed, but certain aspects of these systems, such as inefficient workflows and poor user design, might be one of the primary culprits.

Some effective ways to reduce physician burnout are:

  • Choose an EMR champion: Try to identify a physician in your team who can become the new EMR’s power user and make him or her your technology leader. This way the physician would feel motivated and will execute tasks with greater interest. You can do this for different specialities by making different EMR champions as per their field of knowledge.In addition, by closely watching them perform various tasks through the EMR, you can make a list of tips, shortcuts and best practices for making the practice more efficient.
  • Use a patient portal: Make sure you integrate a patient portal with your new EMR to reduce patient wait times and save yourself effort and time. Your physicians will experience less burnout as patients can execute various administrative tasks, such as appointment scheduling, checking prescriptions and making payments, themselves using the portal. Hence, your physicians and staff members will have more time for other critical tasks.

Greenway Health patient dashboard

For more on the benefits of patient portals you can read our article, “What Makes a Great Patient Portal?
  • Involve physicians during new EMR selection process: We all know that poorly designed EMR systems contribute a lot towards physician burnout. However, if you involve physicians early in the software selection process, starting right from the design stage up to the implementation, it will result in a system physicians feel invested in—not one by which they feel antagonized.

There’s no doubt, physician burnout is a major problem that is contributing to physician dissatisfaction, but the above mentioned ways will help you prevent the problem.

Looking Forward: Making Your New EMR Work

Once you’ve read the answers to the three most burning EMR software questions mentioned above, here are some final tips to address physician resistance to EMRs.

  • Physicians’ frustration related to EMRs often prevents medical practices from realizing the full benefits of EMR software. It’s important to involve physicians early in the software selection process to enhance their satisfaction as well as maximize your returns.
  • EMRs have revolutionized the medical industry—communicate the benefits to your team. Universal adoption of EMR systems is inevitable and shifting away from traditional paper-based methods is the first step towards improving patient care, satisfaction and safety through innovative solutions.
  • Physician burnout can have a considerable impact on your medical practice’s overall productivity and quality of patient care. Make sure to consistently deploy ways to reduce physician burnout such as designate EMR champions, integrate patient portals and involve physicians in complete EMR selection process.

In addition, to get a better understanding of the various functionalities and features of different medical software, we recommend you read our medical software buyer guide.

If you’re looking to get a comparison of specific solutions, then you can call us at (844) 686-5616 for a free consultation with a software advisor.

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