Survey finds Most Doctors Use Electronic Medical Records

AUSTIN, March 7, 2017 - These days, most physicians bring more than a stethoscope to a patient visit. A newly released Texas Medical Association (TMA) survey of the state’s physicians shows nearly three-quarters of them are using an electronic health record (EHR) to capture your health information.

Seventy-four percent of physicians report using an EHR, according to the 2016 TMA Physician Survey. The number of EHR-using Texas doctors has steadily increased since 2009, when only half of physicians reported using one — the electronic version of the old paper charts.

“The findings certainly show physicians’ attitudes about EHRs are changing,” said Matthew Murray, MD, chair of TMA’s Ad Hoc Committee on Health Information Technology (HIT). “Rather than seeing EHRs as inevitable, they are recognizing the actual and potential value.”

TMA asked more than 38,000 physicians earlier this year for their experiences and opinions about HIT. The survey serves as a benchmark of how physicians use their EHRs and what they need to make them more effective.

Only 20 percent of physicians say they have no plans to implement an EHR, according to the survey. That number has remained steady since 2009. The primary reasons physicians aren’t universally adopting EHRs are cost and because they are nearing retirement.

But electronic record-keeping might keep some patients safer.

Eight in ten physicians (81 percent) say they use their EHR to prescribe medications. Physicians mentioned these pluses: built-in alerts for drug interactions, less errors from poor handwriting, decreased duplicate or over prescribing, and enhanced record-keeping.

Dr. Murray, a Fort Worth pediatric emergency physician, said he appreciates that as a physician and patient. E-prescribing is faster and more accurate for physicians, he said. As a patient, Dr. Murray said he prefers to make only one trip to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription, rather than having to drop off a paper copy and wait or return later to pick it up.

Physician respondents said EHRs allow them to access records from any location, which is particularly helpful when they are on call; provide patient histories when the patient is unable to provide that information, such as in an emergency; and read, store, and retrieve notes more easily.

Despite their advantages, EHRs have room for improvement. Physicians report frustration that the EHR distracts from patient care. Because they are spending time entering data in the EHR, physicians have less personal interaction with the patient that aids in diagnoses.

Other negatives:

A lot of data is being collected, but work is needed to use it to improve patient care;
An EHR system can be time-consuming and difficult to use; and
Some EHRs don’t allow for shared data with another system, leaving a patient’s medical information fragmented.
Dr. Murray said he sees that in his own family’s records. Information from each family member is stored on different patient portals, he said, and it is complex to keep up with the IDs and passwords to access each one. Dr. Murray said he urges more focus on developing the systems and processes that will allow patients easy access to their own medical information and to their children’s information.

“I believe 100 percent of physicians will want to use an EHR when they are easy to use and they provide the ability to send and receive patient data between physicians without extra effort required by the physician,” said Dr. Murray.

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