Survey finds 59 percent of physicians lose time to EHR unfamiliarity

Electronic health record software can be difficult to become accustomed to for some physicians. The struggle of working with a new system leads 70 percent of doctors to claim that it decreases their face-to-face time with patients, according to the Medscape EHR Report 2014. However, 10 percent of the report's survey respondents stated that they have more time to spend working with patients.

Physicians from the National Institutes of Health, in association with the American College of Physicians, recently submitted a letter to The Journal of the American Medical Association, which stated that the results of a small survey show family practice physicians reported a loss of 48 minutes of free time per clinic day due to their EHR systems.

The process
To conduct the study, the researchers mailed a 19-question survey to 900 ACP members and 102 nonmember interns who provided ambulatory care. Out of the invitees, 485 opened the email and 69 doctors were taken out of the study due to a lack of EHR use. Eighty-two percent of the physicians have used an EHR for more than a year, and 78 percent of the respondents used one of nine EHR systems. From those nine programs, the Veteran Affairs' Computer Patient Record System had the least free time lost at less than 20 minutes.

Additional findings included that 89.8 percent of respondents reported at least one data management function was slower after implementing an EHR system, and 63.9 percent stated that writing notes took longer. Furthermore, 33.9 percent of physicians believed that they experience an increase of time to find and review patient information in an EHR system than before implementation, while 32.2 percent found that it was slower to read other clinicians' notes in the programs.

For trainees, the survey discovered that they only lost 18 minutes per day compared to the 48 minutes of mean time loss for attending physicians. For those doctors, that adds to four hours per five-day week, and out of the 59.4 percent of respondents who indicated that they lost time, the mean loss was 78 minutes per day, or 6 1/2 hours per five-day week.

The physicians who analyzed the survey stated that they speculate the trainees had lower-than-average lost time because of their adept computer skills and shorter clinical working days. However, the letter ignored that 40.6 percent of all physicians do not experience any loss of free time at all.

One of the letter's lead authors, Clement McDonald, director of the National Library of Medicine's Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications, told U.S. News & World Report that the VA's EHR software had the least amount of time lost because they adopted the technology much earlier than the rest of the health care industry. He added that it takes longer to enter information into the EHR system because physicians are looking out for patient safety and one small typographical error can result in deep consequences.

The researchers also found that many physicians have utilized scribes, standing orders and voice-to-text programs to ease the information recording process.