Doctors call for overhaul of electronic health records

June 4, 2018

New research by Stanford Medicine, conducted by The Harris Poll, has found that American physicians want substantial improvements in the way electronic health records (EHRs) work.

In a poll conducted online of over 500 primary care physicians (PCPs), respondents expressed a range of views on the current state of EHRs, the impact EHRs have had on their professional satisfaction, and their potential as clinical tools. The results will be presented today at a national symposium hosted by Stanford Medicine, which will convene health leaders to discuss the future of EHR technology.

Sixty-three percent of physicians think EHRs have generally led to improved patient care, and 66% are at least somewhat satisfied with their current systems; however, a large portion see room for improvement.

  • 59% think EHRs need a complete overhaul
  • 40% believe there are more challenges with EHRs than benefits
  • Only 18% reported being “very satisfied” with their current systems

PCPs also had much to say on the impact that EHRs had on the quality of their work life. More than half reported that using an EHR detracts from their professional satisfaction and, more importantly, their clinical effectiveness. Even more agreed that EHR use contributed to the number of hours worked daily and believed that EHRs are a large contributing factor to the physician burnout crisis.

  • The majority of PCPs (54%) say using an EHR detracts from their professional satisfaction
  • Half (49%) think using an EHR detracts from their clinical effectiveness
  • Nearly three-quarters agree EHRs have increased the total number of hours they work daily (74%) and that EHRs greatly contribute to physician burnout (71%)

PCPs reported spending a disproportionate amount of time per visit interacting with EHR systems, and many feel that EHRs are competing with their patients for already limited time and attention. On average, over the course of a 20-minute in-person patient visit, PCPs reported spending 12 minutes interacting with the patient, and eight minutes interacting with the EHR system. This does not include another 11 minutes of EHR interaction once the patient visit had concluded.

Nearly half (44%) of PCPs report that the primary value of their EHR is data storage, compared to clinical abilities such as disease prevention/management (3%), clinical decision support (3 percent), and patient engagement (2%). These responses confirm that physicians largely see EHRs as a storage utility, rather than a clinical tool designed to help them improve patient care.

Those polled believe EHR systems can be improved in the following ways:

Top three short term improvements:

  • Nearly three in four PCPs (72%) would like to see improved EHR user interface design to eliminate inefficiencies and reduce screen time
  • Almost half of PCPs (48%) would like to shift more EHR data entry to support staff
  • Four in 10 PCPs (38%) would like to increase use of highly-accurate voice recording technology that acts as a scribe during patient visits

Top three long term improvements:

  • Seven out of 10 PCPs (67%) think solving interoperability deficiencies in the next decade should be the focus
  • Nearly half (43%) want improved predictive analytics to support disease diagnosis, prevention, and population health management
  • Nearly one-third of PCPs (32%) indicate they would like to see the integration of financial information into the EHR to help patients understand the costs of their care options.

A full copy of the research can be found here.