Only 34 percent of physicians are satisfied or very satisfied with their EHR systems, according to a recent survey conducted by the American Medical Association and AmericanEHR Partners. Another survey published in the American Academy of Family Physicians' journal, Family Practice Management reported that only 39 percent of respondents who changed EHRs were pleased with their new system.
The results of these surveys outline how the decision to change EHR systems or not is a difficult one. After all, it's a significant financial investment and staff have spent a lot of time learning how to implement and use their system. If you change, your practice will have to foot these costs all over again. In addition, you face the potential loss of data and problems with data migration.
HANG IN THERE
"A well-designed EHR should be physician centric, specialty specific, and serve as a tool for the physician to document a patient's visit," says John Pitsikoulis, managing director of Berkeley Research Group, LLC, a firm located in Hunt Valley, Md. "The EHR must also meet the practice's business needs, including the revenue cycle. When an EHR doesn't align with a practice's specific day-to-day work flows, it makes the physician's job more difficult by increasing [his] administrative and compliance workload. By negatively impacting the physicians' time, patient care is impacted."
While it's tempting to want to replace something that doesn't meet your expectations, under certain circumstances you may want to give it more time. "First, determine if your current system offers enough functionality for managing your practice and achieves meaningful use requirements set forth by CMS. Also, verify that the vendor's strategy for future enhancements outweigh any short-term disadvantages," Pitsikoulis advises.
If your practice likes some of the core features and functions of the system, already developed specialty-specific templates, and can live with navigating through notes, orders, and prescribing without overwhelming frustration, living with the current system makes sense at least for the short term, Pitsikoulis continues.
One common complaint of physicians is that they have become data entry clerks at the expense of patient care. "This is a common physician finding, regardless of the EHR system," Pitsikoulis says. "But changing systems could result in the same functionality."
The truth of the matter is that a lot of systems aren't lacking in functionality and can be beneficial if you take the time to learn how to use them, says Eagan, Minn.-based Derek Kosiorek, principal consultant of Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) Healthcare Consulting Group. One way to determine if this is the case at your practice is by finding out which physicians successfully use the EHR. If it's more than half, then the EHR isn't the problem and other doctors need to invest more time in learning to use the system more efficiently. See if those doctors can assist others in learning the system.