We hear a lot about how physicians are dealing with the transition to electronic health records (EHR) and whether or not EHR implementation supports their ability to deliver care. But could it be that the focus on physicians’ use of EHRs overlooks the experience of clinicians who use systems the most?
Nurses are starting to play larger roles in the maintenance of patients’ electronic records. The meaningful use program provides incentives to physicians and nurse practitioners, so it’s understandable that most of the ink spilled discussing the impact of EHRs on medical professionals would focus on these groups. But nurses use the technology as well. And as the clinicians who often have the most direct contact with the patient, shouldn’t more consideration be given to how they are coping with the technology?
The hiring firm WANTED Analytics recently made available information on the most common job openings posted to their database that require EHR experience. Registered nurses topped the list. Physician assistants also made the top five. Neither of these professional groups are eligible for meaningful use incentives (except in the case of the physician assistants who lead rural health clinics), so their EHR implementation concerns rarely get publicized. But studies have shown that satisfaction with an EHR system and overall care quality improve when nurses are involved with implementation at an intimate level. There appears to be value in supporting nurses’ ability to use the technology.
EHR implementation experts commonly recommend getting staff from all departments involved in an EHR implementation. Nurses may be among the most crucial staff members to include. The support they provide to physicians and the deep contact they have with patients are central to the success of any health care provider. As medical offices continue to embrace technology, it may be necessary for EHR systems to fit the needs of nurses, not just doctors.