Four ways to maximize value from your EHR and improve usability

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Four ways to maximize value from your EHR and improve usability

March 26, 2021
Health IT
David Lareau
By David Lareau

Your user-unfriendly EHR may be driving clinicians out of healthcare, diminishing the patient experience, and costing you money. As a paper recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA) notes, despite “basic federal requirements promoting a user-centered design approach to electronic health record (EHR) development and usability testing,” EHR usability remains a major hurdle for healthcare organizations.

Even after facility-specific customization, configuration, and training, too many healthcare workers struggle with their EHRs. Another study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research shows that 75% of clinician respondents “who reported burnout symptoms identified the EHR as a contributor. Lower satisfaction and higher frustration with the EHRs were significantly associated with perceptions of EHR contributing toward burnout.”

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Physician burnout creates a corrosive loop of clinician depression, depersonalization, inadequate care, low patient satisfaction, negative feedback, and unprofessional behaviors (up to and including substance abuse). The result is a dysfunctional healthcare system that is continually drained of clinical talent and fails to serve the needs of patients.

While authors of the study published in JAMIA say vendors are “beginning to address aspects of EHR implementation that play a critical role in shaping EHR usability,” it is imperative that healthcare decision-makers prioritize initiatives to improve the EHR user experience. Specifically, stakeholders should maximize value from their existing EHRs by focusing on these four core areas:

1. Improving patient care
In a way it shouldn’t be surprising that EHRs do a poor job of enhancing patient care because they really aren’t designed for that purpose. Nor were EHRs designed to meet the needs of clinicians. Rather, EHRs were developed so billers and coders could get the patient, diagnostic and treatment information required for them to do their jobs. Unfortunately, this leaves clinicians struggling to input and find data at the point of care, which detracts from their ability to focus on the patient and leads to job dissatisfaction and burnout.

The last thing a clinician wants to do during a patient visit is tap away on the laptop while desperately trying to locate information. EHRs need streamlined workflows so clinicians can quickly find patient- and condition-specific information at the point of care. An effective EHR workflow for point-of-care use would include a comprehensive review of all data in the chart, real-time filtering of information, and highlighting of potentially relevant data point for the user.

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