Physicians becoming savvy in EHR selection, AAFP finds

Six years of American Academy of Family Physician surveys show that physicians know what they want from EHR software and won't hesitate to change if they don't like what they see.

Despite the common refrain that physicians are reluctant to adopt electronic health records, the results of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) annual survey seem to indicate that doctors are in fact embracing the EHR selection process. Furthermore, they are savvy enough to know what they want and what their EHR implementation strategies should look like.

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Presenting trends from six years' worth of results during the Health Information and Management Systems Society's HIMSS 2012 conference, Kenneth Adler, medical director of information technology for Arizona Community Physicians, said doctors are increasingly participating in the AAFP survey and have begun to express their satisfaction with EHR technology and vendors in more specific ways.

For the first time in the history of conducting the survey, AAFP found in 2011 that 14% of doctors were so dissatisfied with their EHR system that they changed products. "That may be a sign of the times," Adler said at HIMSS.

The more you can involve all physicians, in some fashion, in selecting the system, the better.

Kenneth Adler, medical director of information technology, Arizona Community Physicians

More than 2,700 doctors participated in the latest survey, conducted last year. When the AAFP first issued its survey in 2005, the organization received about 400 responses, Adler said. Survey results are made available for free one year after the report first is issued to AAFP members. The 2011 results are expected to be released widely in July 2012.

Doctors said in the 2011 survey the most satisfying functions of their EHR systems were customization, e-prescribing and electronic messaging. Vendor support and training were the least satisfying characteristics. Vendors catering to large physician practices also scored lower on overall satisfaction than those targeting smaller practices.

Complicating EHR selection is the sheer number vendors on the market. The AAFP survey specifically cited 205 EHR vendors, though other industry reports have estimated that there are nearly twice as many. However, the AAFP found that some 30 EHR vendors control about 87% of the market.

Half of respondents were satisfied overall with their EHR system, according to Adler. Perhaps key to that number is physician involvement in EHR selection. Those who played a pivotal part in the process were more satisfied, he said. "The more you can involve all physicians, in some fashion, in selecting the system, the better."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Jean DerGurahian, Editorial Director or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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