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How Much More Efficient and Productive is Your EHR Making You?

Chances are, not that much. According to a 2013 IDC Health Insights Report, 30% of respondents cited increased efficiency and productivity as a major reason why they adopted EHR technology.

However, with the 58% of respondents who were neutral, dissatisfied or very dissatisfied in their feelings about EHR systems, it’s clear to see the negatives for some providers – as electronic health record technology has not delivered as promised.

But why is this? According to the report, the top reasons doctors use EHR systems include:

  • Accessing patient data
  • Documenting care (coding and charting)
  • Electronic prescribing
  • Viewing lab and diagnostic test results

And EHRs are letting them down in each task. When these core practice activities cannot be completed quickly and effectively, it’s a downward spiral. Productivity and efficiency falls and overall patient satisfaction is compromised. Let’s look at each activity more closely:

Accessing Patient Data

The perfect EHR would make it easy and very quick to access patient data. There would be no redundancy or mixed-up information. With it, a doctor can call up patient data either in the office or from home, on a computer or on a mobile device. In addition, they would be able to view this data in a well-organized, excellently parsed format that allows them to jump between different data sets with ease. Unfortunately, many EHRs suffer from data retrieval challenges, downtime, poorly organized data, and missing or poorly-labelled data. When this happens, doctors are unable to serve patients quickly and efficiently.

Documenting Care (Coding and Charting)

In the study, respondents cited two areas where EHRs failed them. The first was having to spend more time on documentation, as reported by 85% of respondents.  The second was seeing fewer patients, as reported by 66% of respondents. The EHR documenting (coding and charting) process can influence the amount and quality of time you spend with each patient. If you spend the encounter time fiddling with your device and trying to input information, this can reduce the patient’s satisfaction with your services. If the system does not lend itself to easy documentation, consolidation and management, you’ll be spending more hours inputting and organizing this information.

Electronic Prescribing

For non-integrated systems, this can be a real headache. Doctors prescribing medication electronically run into bottlenecks when they have to provide either additional authorizations between disparate systems or they have to back up the electronic prescription with a hard copy just in case the system fails. Careful consideration must be paid to which EHR you adopt, whether electronic prescribing is integrated and how much redundancy the vendor offers to offset any downtime issues.

Viewing Lab and Diagnostic Results

An EHR must seamlessly facilitate the viewing of lab and diagnostic information. To avoid mix-ups and/or missing results -- as well as provide adequate security -- the EHR must be built with security and accuracy. In cases where this does not happen, doctors, staff and patients must deal with cases of mixed up and missing results. This area is important as diagnostic data is confidential patient information that is covered by HIPAA rules.

If your EHR is not handling these basic tasks and helping to provide a more productive and efficient medical practice, then it might be worth looking into whether you’ve chosen the right EHR provider. 

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