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Surveyed Physicians: EHR Systems are “Too Cumbersome”

October 9, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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Physicians are not big fans of electronic health records (EHRs), saying they are too cumbersome to operate and a big reason for their job dissatisfaction, a new survey from the Santa Monica, Calif.-based nonprofit research organization, the RAND Corporation, reveals.

The survey, sponsored by the American Medical Association (AMA), was the findings of RAND Corporation's research of 30 physician practices in six states — Colorado, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. In total, researchers spoke with 220 physicians, medical administrators and allied health professionals, in an attempt to understand the motivating factors for job satisfaction and dissatisfaction in a physician’s life.

“Many things affect physician professional satisfaction, but a common theme is that physicians describe feeling stressed and unhappy when they see barriers preventing them from providing quality care,” stated Mark Friedberg, M.D. the study's lead author and a natural scientist at RAND. “If their perceptions about quality are correct, then solving these problems will be good for both patients and physicians.”

The study found that physicians are down on current EHRs. According to the physicians, the systems interfered with face-to-face discussions with patients, forced physicians to spend too much time performing clerical work, and degraded the accuracy of medical records by encouraging template-generated notes. Furthermore, physicians say the systems are too costly and don’t allow them to “talk” to each other, preventing the transmission of patient medical information when it is needed.

“Physicians believe in the benefits of electronic health records, and most do not want to go back to paper charts,” Friedberg said. “But at the same time, they report that electronic systems are deeply problematic in several ways. Physicians are frustrated by systems that force them to do clerical work or distract them from paying close attention to their patients.”

Medical practices surveyed said they employ additional staff members to perform many of the tasks involved in using electronic records to quell the frustration. This helps doctors' focus their interactions with EHR on activities truly requiring a physician's training.

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