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April 2018

Editor's Note: EHRs Take It on the Chin
By Lee DeOrio
For The Record
Vol. 30 No. 4 P. 3

EHRs are nothing if not resilient. The technology serves as health care's proverbial punching bag, taking one blow after another as disgruntled physicians lambast its poor usability. Now that it is a staple in most health care organizations, you would think EHR vendors and users would have adapted and worked together to devise a tool that meets the needs of all parties, including patients. Obviously, the disconnect remains.

Of course there have been success stories, most of which seem to emanate from large health care organizations with huge budgets and healthy resources. Meanwhile, smaller hospitals have pointed the finger at EHR implementations for being at least part of the reason their bottom line has taken a beating.

The string of criticism has come heavier and hotter on the physician practice side. Rarely does a day go by without a physician publicly lamenting the flaws inherent in EHRs. For example, take this snippet from a blog post by Fred N. Pelzman, MD: "Why, in such a complex environment, have we allowed ourselves to become subject to an [EHR] that is not anywhere near as responsive as we would like, when it comes to making things better for patients and providers and the rest of the team taking care of all of these patients?"

Several studies have cited EHRs as a significant source of physician burnout. Many physicians believe typing, clicking, and checking boxes are time-consuming tasks with no tangible benefits, a laborious exercise in tedium done for the sake of meeting federal regulations. And there's the rub. An industry heavy on regulatory requirements compounds the pain by endorsing clunky systems seemingly designed for that sole purpose.

Having spent more time than usual over the past year inside various health care organizations both large and small and speaking with relatives in the nursing profession, I can report the frustration is real. In fact, I have not spoken to a single person satisfied with their EHR. Some are outright disgusted, while others are apologetic for the various issues that have arisen, including billing discrepancies, inaccessible documents during a downtime, and time spent focused on a computer screen rather than the patient.

It's an unsustainable system but, oddly enough, one that's not going away.