By Doug Cusick
Browsing through trade and even consumer media, it is easy to become pessimistic about the state of electronic health records (EHRs). One article may describe how a health system is spending hundreds of millions, if not more than a billion dollars, ripping out and replacing a new EHR platform. While no one will argue with the need for EHRs, countless articles have focused on how the technology is contributing to physician burnout.
For example, survey results published in JAMA Network in August 2019 stated: “The adoption of the electronic health record (EHR) has occurred alongside the dramatic and troubling rise in clinician stress and burnout.” The article goes on to describe how survey participants cited factors such as excessive data entry requirements, long cut-and-pasted notes, inaccessibility of information from multiple institutions and interference with work-life balance, as among the many challenges physicians face with EHRs.
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More such research and commentary can be expected in the coming years, but what hasn’t been reported enough is how EHR satisfaction is improving across many health systems. Ironically, while EHRs are one form of health IT that has disrupted physician workflows, other types of health IT are addressing the issues with EHRs that aren’t working, so that clinicians can enjoy practicing medicine again. For example, third-party applications that are customized to physicians’ workflows and specialties can be embedded into EHRs to improve functionality and to accomplish important tasks such as improved patient hand-offs without having to duplicate efforts when there’s a shift change at the hospital.
The transition from paper to electronic records has been difficult, and we’re not at the end of the tunnel yet for many hospitals and health systems. Thanks to the emergence of innovative and powerful integrated technologies within EHRs, some organizations are seeing the light. This technology is changing physicians’ and clinicians’ experiences with their EHR — from frustration to satisfaction — enabling teams to deliver safer, more efficient care that supports optimal outcomes.
One EHR, hundreds of teams
Across a typical health system, there could be hundreds of care teams comprising physicians, consultants, nurses, technicians, social workers and others, each with their own unique workflow and information needs. EHR workflows were not designed with each team member’s needs in mind. They were actually built to address common financial and coding needs across an entire healthcare system — which means they may actually be disruptive to specific workflows.