EHR satisfaction growing among physicians

When electronic health record systems first came on the scene at the beginning of meaningful use requirements, physicians and health care administrators were quick to denigrate the technology. Rushed out before its development was ready, a majority of the industry consistently and loudly criticized the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' ardent pursuit of a U.S. health care system with an interconnected network of patient information.

Even though the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services saw its former secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, resign earlier this month, the Obama administration must be satisfied with health care reform's current picture in the country. recently surpassed its original estimated enrollment numbers, and according to a report from customer satisfaction research firm Black Book Rankings, physicians are also feeling more receptive of EHR systems as part of their day-to-day workflows.

Growing strong with technology
The radical change from paper records to an entirely digitized system has been difficult for many practices small and large. However, after some initial hiccups, the Black Book Rankings report may indicate a slowly gathering storm of support in favor of EHR use among physicians. 

In a review of their annual reports on customer satisfaction, the researchers found that physician dissatisfaction regarding the performance of their EHR systems has drastically decreased over the years. The firm's first report came in 2009, when 48 percent of physicians indicated that they were "very dissatisfied" with their EHR system's ability to ease workflow congestion. However, that number fell to only 8 percent of primary care doctors as of the end of 2013, the report found.

Family practices saw a similar change, as 39 percent of physicians in small workgroups reported that they had experienced a complete return per-implementation workflows. This number is a vast improvement over the mere 10 percent who reported the same at the end of 2012.

Reviewing the research
The researchers also identified stronger relationships between EHR vendors and their patients. This may make it easier to get software fixes whenever necessary. Also, a clear line of communication between vendor and client can help when further tests are necessary to determine the capabilities of a health network. As meaningful use stage 2 requirements continue to roll out, the ability to acquire software verification from a vendor may be crucial.

Not only are physicians feeling more optimistic about their futures alongside EHR technology, but they are also beginning to share that technology with their patients, according to The Boston Globe. 

Physicians at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston have opened access to mental health records to about 650 patients, the paper reported. These patients can read the notes made about their appointments with therapists, just as another physician would.

"We all had some reservations,'' Michael Kahn, a psychiatrist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, told the Globe. "What about if a patient misinterpreted a note? Would they be upset about it? Would it confuse them?''

So far, the initiative has worked as the doctors intended. By reading notes on themselves, a selection of patients have become more active in their own treatment plans and are practicing better lifestyles since receiving access to their EHR files.

A 53-year-old patient who spoke with the Globe under anonymity said that reading her psychiatrist's notes helps her know that they understood each other during the session. 

"Sometimes when I am in session with [him], I wonder does he understand what I am trying to get across," the woman told the paper. "I get to see if he does.''

This shift toward transparency is planned as a pilot program by Beth Israel Deaconess administrators to open access ever wider in the future. Patients deemed at low risk for harmful activities caused by reading medical notes were selected as a control group.