A study conducted by the Medical Group Management Association suggests that a loss of productivity is the biggest concern among doctors who are switching from paper health records to electronic health records (EHRs). Some 4,588 practices representing approximately 120,000 physicians completed the online survey.
What exactly are productivity losses when switching to an EHR system? Dr. Robert Murry, medical director of informatics at Hunterdon Medical Center in N.J., believes they can range from obtaining lab results, referral processes and staff training to increased wait times and financial hits due to fewer patients. (Providers often decrease patient quantity during the early stages of EHR implementation, said Murry, but wait times still pose a threat to productivity.)
A balance in dealing with productivity lapses is imperative in the implementation process. Subpar training and failure to manage incoming and existing workflow hinders the prospect of implementation. “There are going to be a fair number of practices that fail in implementation because they do not understand the magnitude,” said Murry. “If you are going to do it, do it right.” Furthermore, if a practice is good at managing time, wants to participate in ACOs [accountable care organizations] and quality reporting, that it’s “time to jump on the bandwagon,” he added.
Implementing an EHR system requires a major infrastructure change. Even though paper records might be a quicker method for now, the transition to EHRs is crucial to health information exchange (HIE). The timely exchange of clinical data needs to be at the forefront of EHR system upgrades. The process of sending and receiving patient records from disparate EHR systems addresses the significance of compatibility.
Although productivity losses are worrisome, it boils down to each facility’s providers and IT staff to make the decision when it’s best to adopt. Simply pushing it aside is not the answer. “It’s foolish to stick your head in the sand and pretend that medical care is not going in this direction,” Murry concluded.