One of the most significant shifts in hospital practice over recent decades has been the widespread adoption of electronic medical records as a replacement for conventional paper records.
While EMRs show a lot of promise – having the potential to centralize and simplify clinician notes, make information more accessible and reduce paper waste – there is strong evidence that they are not working as well as they could.
Some research suggests that these systems may decrease the working efficiency of clinicians. Now, major health care institutions are looking to understand why these systems are not working — as well as how they may be improved.
A recent white paper from the Society of Hospital Medicine’s Healthcare Information Technology Special Interest Group –– reviews the current shortcomings of EMRs from a hospitalist perspective and provides recommendations for how these systems can be made more workable and efficient.
The current state of EMRs
“Numerous previous papers – including SHM’s 2017 white paper ‘Hospitalist Perspectives on Electronic Medical Records’ – have linked EMRs to decreased provider satisfaction and increased burnout related to multiple issues, including an increase in ‘screen time’ as opposed to patient ‘face-to-face’ time, and limitations in usability and interoperability,” said Rupesh Prasad, MD, SFHM, medical director of care management and a hospitalist at Advocate Aurora Health in Milwaukee. “Studies have shown that most of a provider’s time spent is in areas like clinical documentation, entry of orders, and accessing patient information.”
The 2017 SHM white paper referenced by Dr. Prasad reported thatwere dissatisfied with their EMR. A full one-quarter of surveyed physicians went so far as saying they would prefer switching to paper record keeping.
Other research has also found a possible link between EMRs and physician burnout and dissatisfaction. It is also not uncommon for hospitalists to spend up to 25% of their time at work using their EMR – time that should, ideally, be spent with patients.
The 2017 paper also showed that clinician notes in the United States are four times longer, on average, than notes in other countries. There are a few reasons for this – including technology design and billing requirements encouraging longer notes. Whatever the cause, however, longer notes linked to physician burnout may be partially responsible for the large amounts of time physicians spend looking at EMRs.
While EMRs may hold significant potential for hospitalists, as they are designed currently, they are simply not delivering the value many expected. The new white paper from the Healthcare Information Technology Special Interest Group outlines practical changes that could be made to EMRs to improve their use in hospitals.
The paper breaks down current issues with EMRs into five broad categories – documentation, clinical decision support, order entry, communication, and data review – to discuss how EMRs are currently failing in these areas as well as how they might be improved.
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