The implementation of electronic health records, or EHR systems has faced many obstacles, and EHRs are far from universal in healthcare settings. This is despite provisions in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) of 2009 and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) of 2010. Physicians and other providers may be slow to embrace new technologies, there may be challenges with being able to use the new systems, and the initial investments of time and money can seem prohibitive. However, growth in EHR use is evident, and EHR users are continuing to invest in their systems.
Practitioners Are Making Greater Investments in EHR
EHR users who are investing more in their electronic systems are doing so to increase efficiency for medical staff and for their patients, according to the consulting firm Software Advice. The firm conducts an ongoing survey on EHR trends and use, with participants including physcians from small, medium, and larger practices. The survey found that 35 percent of EHR users responded that they are investing greater amounts in their EHR systems in 2014 than in previous years.
Investments in Patient Portals and Mobile EHR Access
The ongoing survey by Software Advice found that the two major areas of investment related to EHR systems are in patient portals and in improving mobile EHR access. Applications of patient portals include prescribing medications electronically, integrating lab tests and results, and administering health information exchanges.
Mobile access is another key area. Although more than 80 percent of EHR users access their systems from desktop computers at some point, the use mobile devices for the same purpose is also high. More than two-thirds of users use laptops to access their EHR systems, over one-third use tablets, and 1 out of every 5 users accesses information through smartphones. The survey found that 17 percent of EHR users use only their smartphones or other portable devices to access EHR systems.
Reduced Productivity is a Recognized Challenge with EHR Systems
The survey conducted by Software Advice also found that reduced productivity is a significant challenge for more than 50 percent of users. A major problem is integrating EHR systems into other systems currently in use. This can be a problem when the new EHR systems require hardware other than the hardware currently in use in the physician’s office or other healthcare facility. New computers and other equipment can be necessary, and these can have prohibitive costs.
Also, integration can be challenging when the software does not complement previous systems or the staff have difficulty using it properly. The time to train staff is another problem if the EHR system is complicated. If staff do not use the system properly, its use will not lead to an increase in productivity compared to the systems formerly used in the facilities.
Meaningful Use is Not the Biggest Barrier
Another finding of the survey is that meaningful use is not a major challenge for most EHR users. Demonstration of meaningful use Stage 1 and then Stage 2 can be important for healthcare providers involved in Medicare because it can lead to financial incentives. Only 9 EHR users in the survey reported that meaningful use is a major challenge, while 30 percent found it to be a moderate challenge. At the same time, the majority of those surveyed reported that the systems improved access to records and made them more legible.
Last Updated on June 13, 2014