The majority of both patients and healthcare providers view the use of electronic health record (EHR) systems positively, according to a recent survey. However, the survey also reveals that switching to an EHR has only saved medical professionals an hour a week on the time they spend on paperwork.
SelectHub, a Denver, Colo.-based provider of technology selection management solutions, surveyed more than 1,000 patients with access to EHRs and over 100 medical professionals who use the system about their opinions on EHRs.
When it came to the sentiment of medical professionals regarding the use of EHRs, responses were mostly positive, which counters many other surveys and studies about clinicians’ frustration with EHR systems. Eighty-six percent of medical professionals feel that an EHR system makes their job of providing service and care to patients easier. And, 85 percent of those surveyed believed EHRs make it easier to share patient data with other healthcare providers and organizations.
When comparing survey responses from health care professionals and patients, both groups showed a strong positive sentiment toward EHRs. Patients had a slightly lower overall positive sentiment at 80.1 percent (positive and very positive) compared to health care professionals’ over 87 percent approval of EHRs (positive and very positive).
Key findings from the survey were: On average, patients who received better instructions on accessing EHRs access them more than twice as frequently; medical professionals feel that the use of EHRs increases productivity, decreases clerical errors, but were divided on how EHRs impact financial expenses; and switching to EHRs has saved medical professionals only one hour a week of the time they spend on health records.
Medical professionals also had other positive sentiments about EHRs, according to the survey: makes an average workday easier (81 percent); makes identifying potential issues or errors in patients’ medical records easier (80 percent); helps with managing patient billing (77 percent) and makes communicating with patients’ insurance providers easier (72 percent). Only 63 percent feel that EHRs help them communicate directly with patients with more ease.
When broken down by facility type, those working in a group practice had a full approval rating (100 percent) of EHRs, followed by hospital staff at 92 percent and those working in private practice at 86 percent. Those working in a clinic, urgent care or ambulatory surgery center averaged 71 percent of respondents with an overall positive opinion of EHRs.
The survey results also were broken down by occupation: administrators/administrative staff, medical laboratory scientist and specialist medical practitioners had the most positive sentiment toward EHRs, with a 100 percent approval rating, followed by nurses at 95 percent and technicians at 88 percent. Clerks or office receptionists had a 75 percent approval rating and physician assistants had a 71 percent approval rating.
The survey also included comparing the ease of use of EHRs to traditional methods of record keeping. The survey results indicate that those who frequently used the EHR system were more likely to see its benefits than those who seldom used the system. For those who used an EHR system “a great deal,” 93 percent felt it was easier to use than traditional record-keeping methods. Of respondents who used the system moderately, 86 percent found the use of EHRs easier as well.
Additionally, for the medical professionals who switched to an EHR system, the number of hours per week dedicated to working with health records decreased only from 19.7 hours to 18.6 hours.
Health care professionals were also asked how the use of EHRs affected the workplace, including overall productivity, facility expenses, and cases of clerical errors. Regarding general workplace productivity, 81 percent felt EHRs increased productivity, compared to only 4 percent who felt productivity decreased.
An effect of EHRs medical professionals seem divided on is its impact on a facility’s financial expenses; although 38 percent said EHRs reduced the expenses of their health care facility, 34 percent said costs neither increased nor decreased and 29 percent believe the use of EHRs increased expenses.
Finally, 68 percent of those surveyed felt clerical errors decreased when EHRs were used, as opposed to the 25 percent who saw no change in errors and 7 percent who felt errors increased due to the utilization of an EHR system.
The survey found that 64 percent of patients feel it is very or moderately important to have access to their electronic health records. What’s more, the majority of patients (76 percent) feel that their doctor’s utilization of an EHR has a positive effect on the health care they receive. This also seems to run counter to other studies that have found that doctors may spend nearly half their time documenting and performing administrative tasks rather than having face-to-face time with patients.
The survey also indicates that patients feel medical providers do an overall good job at explaining how patients could access their EHRs. Of the patients studied, nearly 59 percent felt their medical provider adequately explained how to access their records. However, this still leaves some room for improvement, as over 28 percent of patients feel their medical provider explained the process poorly or very poorly, and almost 13 percent were not given any explanation at all on how to access their records.
On average, patients who received better instruction on accessing EHRs accessed them more than twice as frequently. Those who felt their provider explained the EHR system very well accessed their records an average of 8.5 times a year. For those who felt it was explained well, they accessed their EHRs 5.1 times annually. Conversely, patients who felt accessing their EHRs was explained very poorly only accessed their records 2.5 times in a given year.
When asked about which health care facilities granted them the greatest EHR access, participants identified hospitals at 48 percent, while 45 percent were given noteworthy access by a private practice, and 31 percent received EHRs each from a group practice and clinic, urgent care, or ambulatory surgery center. Less common responses were the pharmacy or drugstore and medical laboratories and research facilities at 13 percent each, and medical nursing homes or hospice facilities at 1 percent.