3 Ways to Make Electronic Health Records Less Time-Consuming for Physicians: Best Practices

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3 Ways to Make Electronic Health Records Less Time-Consuming for Physicians: Best Practices

January 10, 2019

3 Ways to Make Electronic Health Records Less Time-Consuming for Physicians: Best Practices

Physicians in the United States are justifiably upset by the amount of time they spend using electronic health records (EHRs). This is true across primary care physicians and specialists, and it contributes to physician burnout. The annual cost of physicians spending half of their time using EHRs is over $365 billion (a billion dollars per day) — more than the United States spends treating any major class of diseases and about equal to what the country spends on public primary and secondary education instruction. This is a problem that can be solved now by taking three steps.

Best Practices

  • Standardize and reduce payer-imposed requirements - A big part of the problem is the documentation requirements that payers impose on providers. Making matters worse, these requirements vary from payer to payer in the United States. Standardizing and rigorously reviewing their utility is essential. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is beginning to make strides in reducing requirements with its Patients over Paperwork initiative, and we believe that private payers should adopt the same principles and agree on a set of standards, requiring documentation only when it truly adds clinical value.
  • Continuously improve EHR workflows - This is something every provider can do right now. There is significant potential to improve user workflows without any regulatory changes or technology innovation. Colleagues who have seen EHR implementations across multiple organizations estimate that there is the potential to improve workflows in the EHR by about 20%, on average, by removing steps that don’t have any value. For instance, Geisinger, which serves communities in Pennsylvania, streamlined the work to get patients to the right musculoskeletal provider from a frustrating multi-click process (or a five- to 10-minute phone call) to one that simply asked two questions: What is the patient’s complaint? and What is the location of the injury? This led to significant increases in provider satisfaction and decreased time for patients to be seen.
  • Unleash innovation - Tech advancements — such as voice recognition, digital scribes, and connected devices — are already beginning to further automate and reduce time spent entering information into the EHR. But once all of the information is in the EHR, clinicians still need help with the other half of the problem: the EHR user experience, which is widely viewed as being many years behind that of other industries.

The full Harvard Business Review article can be viewed at this link.