According to a 2018 national survey of physicians by The Doctor’s Company, 54 percent of the more than 3,400 physician respondents felt that electronic health records (EHRs) have had a negative impact on the physician-patient relationship. Sixty-one percent also felt that EHRs have negatively impacted efficiency and workflow. The survey results offer a sobering and compelling backdrop for why physicians are experiencing frustration and burnout at record levels, with 70 percent reporting they are unwilling to recommend healthcare as a profession.
Issues created by the influx of digital record keeping intended to improve healthcare are known within the industry, but the survey results might explain why many physicians may be hesitant to introduce new technology at the point of care.
But now is not the time for physicians to be averse to technology. Now is the time for them to reclaim this space and the experiences that occur in the exam room. Physicians and patients alike need to promote and design environments and workflows that leverage the power of digital records while ensuring the intimate and humanistic aspects involved in care delivery are maintained.
The bottom line is that many physicians view EHRs as intruding to the in-room experience, which is the essence of the patient-physician relationship and interaction. One reason is that the technology was not designed to benefit the physician experience at the point of care.
Research has shown that a majority of the gain from EHRs including the electronic capture of health information to enable effective billing, effective distribution of clinical information and the establishment of a single reference for comprehensive clinical data is for outside stakeholders. While physicians are responsible for the heavy lifting of populating and retrieving information from these digital platforms, most of the financial benefit is gained by those not part of the point of care experience, chiefly payers and health systems.
Not surprisingly, many patients feel that EHRs have not necessarily made the healthcare experience any better for them, either. Lehigh Valley Health Network and Leigh University conducted a study over the course of its EHR implementation and found that “patients felt the disruption at the beginning and continued to feel less satisfied with their experiences after the EHR was fully implemented.”
Today’s clinical encounters still largely occur in an exam room — where physicians work with patients to conduct annual checkups, establish care plans, validate possible diagnoses and monitor chronic conditions. Arguably, the time shared between a provider and patient is the most important aspect of the healthcare journey. Yet, how that time is spent continues to be challenged.