Surveys show dissatisfaction with poor EHRs

A recent announcement from Black Book Market Research shows that nurse satisfaction with electronic health record systems is at an all-time low. This is due to the number of poorly operating systems that cause inconsistent workflow and issues with communication, among several other problems. Black Book set up a Q3 EHR Loyalty Poll in which 13,650 U.S. nurses responded to make known their intense dissatisfaction with the consequences of poorly functioning EHRs. According to the report, 92 percent of the nurses who took the poll believed their practice's EHR system disrupted productivity and communication instead of benefiting them, as effective EHRs can do. All of the results from the poll are set to be released later this month. 

The effects of poor EHRs
However, this is not the only survey that has shown major dissatisfaction with practices' EHR systems. A survey of providers nationwide by Healthcare Trends from the C-suite released earlier this year found that 40 percent of hospital executives were struggling with their EHRs due to poor functionality. This is particularly interesting, for as nurses frequently have no say in the design or system selection, hospital executives have at least some input. 

Black Book's survey also shows that in addition to the 92 percent who were dissatisfied, 85 percent of the nurses work for a practice that has a "continually flawed" EHR system. The ineffective systems are the result of the chief information officer's decision to choose a lower quality system to receive government incentives, while 69 percent of the nurses reported an "incompetent" IT department – particularly nurses in for-profit hospitals – and others held the CIO's desire to simply select a lower priced system responsible for the struggle with their EHR solutions. 

This survey shows rare data, as nurses – although they are a vital component to a practice's workflow and productivity – are not commonly surveyed as prime users of inpatient devices. However, the announcement regarding the survey pointed out that among the most vital stakeholders of hospital EHR success are nurses, while 98 percent of licensed registered nurses say that they have never been a part of the process when it comes to decisions and designs of their practice's health IT.  

"Technology can help nurses do their jobs more effectively or it can be a highly intrusive burden on the hospital nurse delivering patient care," Doug Brown, managing partner of Black Book Market Research, said in an announcement. "Many compounding nurse productivity problems can be sourced to the failure of those selecting and implementing an EHR to involve direct care nurses in the process."

This highlights the importance of selecting a system from a certified vendor that is effective and benefits the practice.

How EHRs can benefit a practice
As these recent surveys show, poorly functioning EHR systems have the potential to negatively affect many aspects of a practice that impact its success. Just as ineffective EHRs can disrupt workflow, for example, high quality systems can speed up several processes, such as sending and receiving documentation, face-to-face patient interactions and recording information. This ultimately leaves extra time to see more patients. Effective EHRs also have the potential to better inform patients of their current health conditions and diagnoses, as they provide a means for them to see their results through an easily accessible online system, enhancing interoperability. 

"Electronic health records focus on the total health of a patient," said Stacey Larson, J.D., Psy.D., director of legal and regulatory affairs in the American Psychological Association's practice directorate, according to the APA. She explained that interoperability allows providers to conveniently share data with one another. "An electronic health record is basically just a copy of a patient's records; the difference is it's all of the patient's records in one place."

Despite an effective EHR system's ability to make health information more widely available for patients who want to view their health conditions outside of the doctor's office, there is no greater risk of invasion of privacy. In fact, according to Larson, the EHRs limit access to certain information to specific users and can track who has accessed what information. EHRs also lower the risk that a patient's documentation is lost or placed in the wrong hands, as they are sent electronically in a secure manner. The increased accessibility not only benefits the patient, but makes it easier for physicians to keep track of the current condition of their patients without having to see them face-to-face.

Another major issue that dissatisfied practices seem to be dealing with is that their systems do not have the proper functions or documents to meet the needs of their specific practice. For example, orthopedic practices require different documentation and operations that others may not. However, the issue stems from the fact that a lot of practices do not take advantage of specialty EHRs, which are designed with a particular practice in mind, providing hospitals with the functions that will speed up productivity and improve patient care.