EHRs are supposed to usher in the dawn of the paperless practice by streamlining practice workflows and eliminating the need for physical storage space — an epigram commonly heard in the healthcare industry.
But with studies like this one showing that 10 out of 11 primary care practices are using paper workarounds instead of fully utilizing their EHR’s features, what went wrong?
Overlooking functionality went wrong. Cramming as many features as possible into EHR software without regard to usability went wrong. In the end, it’s all a result of faulty EHR design.
This is why we recommend paying attention to design just as much as capabilities when looking to purchase an EHR solution.
Let's review the most commonly cited issues related to paper workarounds and how a well-designed EHR addresses these concerns.
According to a 2012 American College of Physicians survey, 37 percent of physicians say they’re dissatisfied with their EHR system’s efficiency. The problem is that most EHRs simply aren’t designed with ease of use taken into consideration.
Well-conceptualized software will minimize the opening of windows and number of clicks needed to complete tasks, allowing doctors to focus less energy on inputting data and more on improving patient outcomes.
One major memory-based workaround reported by practices is writing down notes as a reminder for future tasks, rather than entering them into their EHR. Particularly pervasive is the use of post-it notes. But an EHR should be designed to provide a clear, organized view of all upcoming duties.
Also, patient flow should be displayed in a way that makes a patient’s standing in the cycle apparent to staff — this way the patient is never left waiting by forgetful employees. The patient experience will be improved and the physician-patient relationship strengthened as a result.
Staff at practices using paper workarounds also reported writing down vitals or other data on health screening forms so physicians would have the information readily available during patient encounters.
Presumably, these physicians avoided using the EHR to access this data because the design wasn’t conducive to their workflows. Before purchasing an EHR, find out if a substantial amount of testing from actual physicians was performed on the product. There can often be a disconnect between software developers and practicing physicians.
Remember, your EHR needs to be designed with the user in mind. If not, paper workarounds can lead to a multitude of pitfalls that EHRs are supposed to help physicians overcome.
If you’re going to invest thousands of dollars into a new EHR, it might as well be one you love to use.
A version of this article originally appeared on PowerYourPractice. Click here to read the original story.