Despite increased use, docs still not embracing EHRs

70 percent of Accenture survey respondents say digital records decrease time with patients
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More physicians are using electronic health records, but that doesn't mean that more of them are happy about it.

That's the latest finding from a new survey by Accenture of 600 U.S. physicians, part of a 2,600 physician survey in six countries. There has been double-digit growth in EHR use in the United States by doctors since 2012. However, the percentages of perceived benefits from 2012 to 2015 declined. Only 46 percent now believe EHRs improve treatment decisions, down from 62 percent; 64 percent believe they reduce medical errors, down from 72 percent.

Forty-six percent believe the tools improved health outcomes, a drop from 58 percent in 2012.

Fully, 70 percent believe that EHRs decrease their time with patients; more than three-fourths (76 percent) cite the lack of interoperability as limiting the quality of care they provide.

Capabilities respondents use the most include electronic entry of patient notes (82 percent), electronic prescribing (72 percent) and reviving clinical results directory into the EHR (65 percent). 

Physicians also are offering more IT functionalities to patients, such as access to their medical records online, appointment scheduling and telemonitoring. More than four-fifths (82 percent) believe that allowing patients to update their own medical records increases patients' engagement in their own health. Such access, they believe, also improves satisfaction, increases their understanding of their medical conditions, improves communication and reduces errors in the EHR.

"The industry needs to adapt to a new generation of patients who are taking proactive roles in their healthcare and expect to have real-time data at their fingertips," said Kaveh Safavi, who leads Accenture's Global Health Business. "When patients have a greater role in the record-keeping process, it can increase their understanding of conditions, improve motivation and serve as a clear differentiator for clinical care provided by physicians."

Physician adoption of EHRs appears to have plateaued, despite the fact that the penalty phase of the Meaningful Use program has kicked in this year.  It is not yet known how many physicians will continue to participate in the program. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, signed this week, places a heavy emphasis on EHR use by physicians.  

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