Electronic health records (EHRs) can be of great help to physicians, but their implementation is wrought with challenges. A poorly functioning EHR not only affects a physician’s efficiency, it can also play a part in a medical practice’s ability to survive.

EHRs influence all aspects of a medical practice, including physician well-being. According to a 2020 Journal of Medical internet Research study, 74.5% of physicians reported a connection between EHRs and burnout. Although EHRs do have benefits like reduced reliance on paper and lower administrative costs, they also carry increased clerical burdens for physicians-like data entry-which negatively affect their stamina.

EHR Systems Can Scatter Patient Information

According to EMR manager at GoHealth Urgent Care, Gaurav Sharma, navigating and mastering EHRs warrants a tremendous amount of time and effort. This results in physicians having to find the time in their already busy patient schedules to make room for EHR tasks. Honolulu-based EHR specialist Katelyn O’Brien, MBA, has spent the last 10 years working on EHR implementations. She notes that EHR systems scatter patient information. This, in turn, creates a virtual hide-and-seek game of medical history assessment, creating a huge burden for physicians.

Sharma sees a possible solution in sectioning-off EHR issues into three categories: Pre-registration/registration, clinical documentation, and simplified billing/coding. Optimizing the gathering of patient information during pre-registration/registration eases EHRs’ clerical burden on physicians, allowing them to focus more on patient care. Sharma also suggests that every EHR should contain speech recognition software or scribes, which would simplify a practice’s clinical documentation process, making it easier and more time-efficient for physicians.

Reducing ‘Click Fatigue’ by Lessening Time Needed for Data Input

Regarding billing/coding, Sharma suggests simplifying it, asserting that responding to a small number of EHR questions should generate an accurate suggested Evaluation Management (EM) code. According to Sharma, user experience (UX) design also plays a key role in streamlining physician interaction with EHRs. If EHRs are designed with accuracy and speed in mind, they will be way more efficient, as they will reduce what has become known as “click fatigue” by lessening the time needed for data input.

Healthcare policymakers play a significant role in EHR reformation. According to a MedStar Health News publication, there are three main points to reforming EHR. First, policies should require vendors to test EHRs for usability. Second, permission must be granted for healthcare organizations to join vendors in every usability and safety testing opportunity. Third, policies should mandate that vendors report all safety or usability problems in a timely fashion.

As O’Brien sees it, successful EHR reform must ultimately result in physicians being able to focus their time and energy on what matters most—patient care. This can be accomplished by re-inserting the physician-patient relationship at the forefront of the EHR discussion.