Creating EHRs with patient and provider experiences in mind

A major part of stage 2 of the meaningful use incentives program involves getting patients involved with the use of electronic health records. This is something that many doctors are concerned about, because they cannot control whether their patients will choose to access their EHRs. A recent article published by EHRIntelligence explained that there is an emotional component to EHRs that has to do with the fact that it is now easy for patients and providers to stay constantly connected and involved in the care process. 

The news source explained that the U.K. National Health Service believes that EHRs are part of the new patient-centered experience in health care. This is why it is so important for EHR vendors to design their systems with the patient experience in mind. If features such as patient portals are easy to use, then it will increase the chances that patients will access their EHRs regularly and help doctors meet the stage 2 requirements

"Using experience to design better health care is unique in the way that it focuses so strongly on capturing and understanding patients', carers' and staff experiences of services; not just their views of the process like the speed and efficiency at which they travel through the system. Instead, this approach deliberately draws out the subjective, personal feelings a patient and carer experiences at crucial points in the care pathway," explained the NHS, quoted by EHRIntelligence. 

Creating patient-centered design
The NHS went on to explain the basics of patient-centered design. For example, it should encourage patients and providers to tell their stories. EHRs should then take these stories and use them to determine the parts of care where the user experience is most shaped and redesign them. 

Researchers from the Virginia Mason Medical Center conducted a study to determine words that have the same meanings for various health care stakeholders, such as patients, providers and patients' families. Researcher Jennifer Phillips explained that certain emotional words mean different things to different people and change depending on the context. When the study was completed, the researchers were able to create a set of words to use in questionnaires meant to help create experience-based designs. 

The researchers discovered that 80 percent of stakeholders agreed on a list of positive and negative emotion words, such as compassion, confident, empowered, enjoyment, enthusiastic, grateful, great, happy, hopeful, afraid, angry, disrespected, disgusted, depressed, frustrated, guilty, hatred and hopeless. As providers share more personal patient information with other doctors and patients, it is important that they choose the words they use in patient files carefully. Understanding the emotional associations people have with different words is an important part of crafting a positive patient experience. 

Patients demanding access
Getting patients to access their EHRs should not be too difficult, because research has shown that individuals are eager to have greater access to their personal health information. Kaveh Safavi, M.D., managing director of Accenture's North American Health Business, explained that his firm has conducted research that shows that not only do patients want access to their PHI, they would be willing to go to a different doctor in order to gain greater access to their EHRs. 

Doctors need to be proactive when it comes to talking to patients about accessing patient portals. Many individuals may be interested in seeing their EHRs, but will not be the first to bring it up in conversation. Physicians should fully explain what an EHR system is to their patients as soon as they implement one, and always stress the many benefits of these systems so that patients can understand the changes that are to come.