Why do Most Nurses Dislike their EHR? Take One Guess

Oct. 29, 2014
Midterm elections, Ebola, ISIS---October has turned into the month of anger. Of course, this has seeped into the health IT world with nearly 14,000 nurses at inpatient facilities recently declaring their dissatisfaction for EHRs and their IT departments.

I’m not a man of daily routine, but there is one thing I try to do every night. At 7 p.m., I try to watch Jeopardy!

I know it’s corny, but it’s something I’ve been doing since I was a kid. Growing up, my mom and I used to watch it all the time and I’d marvel at how she’d get every single question right. Watching the show now as an adult makes me feel close to Mom, even while she is in Boston and I’m in New York.

Lately, it’s been nearly impossible to watch Jeopardy! (true fans know you never exclude the exclamation point). It’s nothing that Alex Trebek and company have done. No, it’s because we are in the midst of midterm election season and every race in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut has decided to ramp up the advertisements from 7 p.m. to 7:30. I can’t watch Jeopardy! without seeing why Candidate A is going to cause the end of the world. Paid for by Candidate B, of course.

Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, or independent, public anger is at an all-time high and those who are up for election next Tuesday are taking advantage.  Every commercial is nauseatingly exploitative of the issues at hand: healthcare, the economy, gun control, women’s rights, ISIS. It’s all an effort to tap into our feelings of anger.

Liberals dislike conservatives and vice versa. We dislike politicians. Politicians dislike each other. We hate advertisements. People are frustrated with the President. A poll from CNN found that more than anything else, anger is driving the midterm elections.

Yes, October is the month of anger. It’s not just due to election season. It’s everywhere. I recently found myself caught in a nasty argument between two tweeters after I wrote something that I thought was innocuous on Ebola.

As I said a few weeks ago, people want to blame someone or something over the Ebola situation. Why? It’s frustrating and disconcerting and ultimately, is out of our control. It’s easy to get upset. And just like everything else, it doesn’t help that it gets exploited by politicians and mainstream media members.

Of course, this anger has seeped into the health IT world. This comes as no surprise. In a popularity poll of doctors, I bet meaningful use would fare as well as Congress has in the court of public opinion. My wife told me that when she went to the doctor’s office recently, he railed on meaningful use and electronic health records (EHRs) after she revealed to him what I did.

Recently, New York-based Black Book Research polled nearly 14,000 licensed registered nurses from forty states, all utilizing implemented hospital EHRs over the last six months. Ninety-percent percent of them express dissatisfaction with their inpatient EHR system. Eighty-four percent of those polled said that EHRs causing disruptions in productivity and workflow have negatively influenced their job satisfaction.

An amazing 69 percent of nurses in for-profit inpatient settings say their IT department is incompetent. That number shocks me but I guess it shouldn’t. IT departments are under more scrutiny than ever. One false step and you’ll end up like the leaders at Athens (Ga.) Regional Health Systems.

I’ve known for a while that most doctors are like my wife’s: They’re just not big fans of EHRs. A new survey from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) shows that they are also not fans of federal reporting programs, like meaningful use. Again, this was not a big shocker.

Nurses? I always figured they were more ambivalent toward EHRs and health IT in general. I have a few friends that are nurses and none of them ever said anything disparaging about them. I was wrong because 14,000 people do not constitute a small sample size.

So what’s the solution to this anger? Every situation is different, but let me point you to a key finding of the Black Book study. Ninety-eight percent of nurses said they were not included in the development of their inpatient EHR.

That is unacceptable. If nurses are going to use it, they should be included in the development process. Successful IT leaders always talk to us about the importance of physician buy-in and having stakeholders involved from the get go, but what about nurses? That cannot be overlooked. It seems ridiculous to have to even say.

Nurses are angry with their EHRs for the same reason the public is so upset over a disease that has a slim chance of affecting them. It’s something that goes beyond our control. When you add in an exploitative element or two then it’s no wonder why October is the month of anger.

Please feel free to respond in the comment section below or on Twitter by following me at @GabrielSPerna

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