Healthcare Technology Featured Article

October 11, 2013

Doctors Find Electronic Health Records a Barrier, But Wouldn't Return to Paper Records

Electronic health records (EHR), or digitized patient records, diagnostic images and test results, are turning out to be one of those “can’t live with them and can’t live without them” technologies. Somewhat controversial because EHR technology is mandated in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, or “Obamacare”), a new survey of doctors has uncovered their importance – and their pain points.

A recent survey conducted by think tank RAND Corporation for the American Medical Association (AMA) and reported by HealthDay found that most doctors simply want to provide the best care possible to patients, but that one of the biggest obstacles to giving their patients the best care possible is – you guessed it – electronic health records. Despite this, however, four of five doctors reported that they would never go back to paper patient records. They simply want electronic health records to be less cumbersome and time-consuming to use.

"Physicians are pleased and happy professionally when they perceive that they're giving high-quality patient care, and they're unhappy when they can't meet patients' needs and when there are barriers to quality patient care," said the study’s author, Dr. Mark Friedberg, a scientist with RAND and a practicing general internist in Boston. “The findings on [electronic health records] were a real surprise to us," Friedberg said. "They had a very important and powerful effect on physician satisfaction.”

The overriding conclusion of the study is that physicians want to provide the best care possible to their patients, and when they are prevented from doing so, they report dissatisfaction with their jobs.

"Medicine isn't a job. It's not even just a career. Medicine is a calling," AMA president Dr. Ardis Dee Hoven said during a news conference this week. "But the bureaucracy can take a toll on even the most dedicated physicians. Over time, the obstacles to providing patients with high-quality care can diminish physician satisfaction.”

The study, which was published by RAND Corporation on October 9th, interviewed doctors from 30 physician practices of various sizes in six U.S. states. Researchers interviewed a total of 108 physicians and 112 practice leaders or clinical staff from these practices. The researchers also sent surveys to about 450 doctors in these practices.

Edited by Alisen Downey
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