Survey: Physician Sentiment Mixed on Benefits of Data, Analytics Tools

Dec. 19, 2018
A new research report reveals physicians’ continuing dissatisfaction with electronic health records (EHRs) and this frustration with EHRs may slow physicians’ immediate acceptance of new data and analytics tools.

A new research report reveals physicians’ continuing dissatisfaction with electronic health records (EHRs) and this frustration with EHRs may slow physicians’ immediate acceptance of new data and analytics tools.

More than half of surveyed physicians say the introduction of EHRs has had both negative and positive impacts. Similarly, 57 percent of doctors say the "introduction of advanced data and analytics tools, population health software and data registries has been a positive and a negative development for practicing physicians."

Across the board, as physicians become active users of population health tools, they report an increasingly positive outlook toward these tools and the value they bring, according to a report by Geneia, a Harrisburg, Pa.-based healthcare analytic solutions and services company.

The report is based on a survey of 300 full-time physicians, and is a follow-up to a report Geneia released in October that revealed a rise in physician burnout. Two-thirds of physicians believe the challenges of practicing medicine in today’s environment have caused them to consider career options outside of clinical practice, an 11 percent increase compared to a similar survey three years ago, according to that earlier report.

According to Geneia’s Physician Misery Index, a tool the company established to measure national physician satisfaction, the physician misery index has increased to 3.94 out of 5, since the January 2015 inaugural survey.

This latest report examines physician sentiment about EHRs and data and analytics tools. Eight-six percent of physicians agree—and 51 percent strongly agree—that "the heightened demand for data reporting to support quality metrics and the business-side of healthcare has diminished my joy in practicing medicine."

Almost all the physician respondents (96 percent) say the amount of time physicians spend on data input and reporting in the last 10 years has increased, and 80 percent say they are personally at risk of burnout. Almost three-quarters (70 percent) of respondents say they know a physician who is likely to stop practicing medicine in the next five years, as a result of physician burnout.

Most physicians, particularly younger ones, accept the potential of and need for data tools, and share some positive views on the possibilities advanced analytics offers. However, physicians’ experience with EHRs may slow their immediate acceptance of new data tools, the report states.

Physician sentiment about EHRs is consistent with Geneia’s inaugural survey in January 2015. Half of all respondents (52 percent) have a mixed opinion about the impact of EHRs in the workplace, and nearly equal numbers have positive (21 percent) and negative (23 percent) views.

EHR integration continues to be a challenge, the survey found. Nearly all physicians (96 percent) believe EHRs should be better designed to seamlessly integrate with the technology systems used by their office and its insurance providers. However, more than half (57 percent) say their EHRs don’t currently integrate.

A significant majority (68 percent) say they lack the appropriate staff and resources to analyze and use EHR data to its full potential, which may be a contributing factor to the frustration they express with the time and quantity of data required.

Physicians with more exposure to data and analytics tools – those who self-identify as current population health users – have a more positive outlook on some of the benefits—64 percent of population health users have a positive view of the ability of data and analytics tools to help "efficiently assess patient history and needs" compared to 50 percent of non-users.

More than two-thirds of physicians (68 percent) say advanced analytics tools are important "when it comes to treating and being compensated for care under value-based care arrangements in today's U.S. healthcare system." Nearly 8 in 10 physicians say they value having a seamlessly integrated EHR analytics tool able to produce predictive analytics reporting on existing data.

Strong majorities of users and non-users of population health tools say value-based care models and the population health tools that support them prove useful in a number of areas—identifying high-risk patients who need screenings or care management; quickly narrowing and flagging patients who need proactive screenings or monitoring; and providing risk assessment data and analytics to stratify patients into low-, rising- and high-risk.

The survey revealed that physicians feel data and analytics tools are most helpful on gathering information and assessing patient history and needs, but the tools fall short on their ability to improve work efficiencies and time with patients. About two-thirds of population health users think data and analytics tools can help “efficiently assess patient history and needs” compared to only half of non-users.

Only about one in four of all surveyed physicians (44 percent) say data and analytics tools help improve quality performance, Medicare Star ratings and HEDIS reporting. Among population health users, this percentage grows to 55 percent.

“We are encouraged that contemporaneously with an increase in the Physician Misery Index, physicians also see the potential for EHRs, data and analytics to help them succeed in value-based care,” Heather Lavoie, Geneia's president, said in a statement. “Nevertheless, there's much more to do to restore the Joy of Medicine to doctors. That's why we're calling on all health IT companies to involved physicians in the design and implementation of health technology products and to measure physician satisfaction.”