Doctors unhappy with EHRs

Family nurse practitioner Terrance James, right, examines Kamiyan Cooper, 1, as his mother Kesha Wilson holds him at the Multnomah County's Mid County Health Center, in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) Family nurse practitioner Terrance James, right, examines Kamiyan Cooper, 1, as his mother Kesha Wilson holds him at the Multnomah County's Mid County Health Center, in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The Obama administration’s investment in the adoption of health information technology has been huge: The $27 billion incentive mandate requires most physicians to adopt electronic medical recordkeeping.

Though it sounds like the investment should pay off, docs say it’s simply not worth it.

A survey of 1,000 physicians for Medical Economics shows widespread dissatisfaction related to the functionality and cost of these patient record systems, with nearly 70 percent saying the investment isn’t worth it. About 45 percent of physicians believe patient care is actually worse as a result of adopting EHR technology, two-thirds said they wouldn’t purchase their EHR system again, and 43 percent of physicians say these systems have resulted in “significant financial losses.”

Nearly 70 percent of physicians also say technology hasn’t improved the coordination of care with hospitals.

“These results showcase a major disconnect between the goals of the government’s EHR incentive program for providers, and the implementation of these systems,” Georgiann DeCenzo, executive vice president of Advanstar Medical Communications Group, said in a statement. “Physicians are giving the health care information technology sector valuable insight on their customers’ preferences, and vendors should factor this into their future development plans.”

The Obama administration has offered incentives to doctors who adopt EHRs, and assessed penalties to those who don’t. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said EHRs will “improve the way care is delivered while lowering costs.”

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, EHR adoption has tripled since 2010, increasing to 44 percent in 2012 and computerized physician order entry has more than doubled (increasing 168 percent) since 2008.

But the Medical Economics survey is the latest showing doctors’ frustration with the technology. In 2013 analysis from the RAND Corp., for example, researchers said despite huge investments in them, cost savings are still elusive. That’s mostly due to the “sluggish adoption of health IT systems,” coupled with the choice of systems that are neither interoperable nor easy to use; and the failure of health care providers and institutions to reengineer care processes to reap the full benefits of health IT.

Additionally, the Medical Economics survey found:

  • 67 percent of physicians say that system functionality influences their decisions to purchase or switch systems.
  • 48 percent say that cost is influencing their decisions to purchase or switch systems.  
  • 45 percent say they have spent more than $100,000 on an EHR
  • 77 percent of the largest practices (more than 10 physicians) spent more than $200,000 on an EHR.
  • 38 percent doubt their systems will still be viable in five years.
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