A new study in the journal Health Services Research discovered that nearly three-quarters of physicians using electronic health records in 2011 said there were clinical benefits when patients' medical histories were kept in digital files. The study’s main focus was on doctors' perceptions of clinical benefits to patient care when EHRs were in use.
Chief of research and evaluation at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and lead author of the study, Jennifer King, explained in the article that physicians with more experience using EHRs were more likely to report clinical benefits.
Researchers examined and analyzed the responses from 3,180 physicians to the Physician Workflow Survey questionnaire about their experiences with EHRs.
"A majority of physicians said they were alerted to a potential medication error or critical lab value, and about one-third reported that EHRs helped them identify needed lab tests or facilitated direct communication with patients," said King.
The study’s findings may pave the way for new opportunities for more doctors to gain health IT benefits.
“Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use Program, which provides incentives from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for EHRs, includes policies designed to enhance the use of EHRs to exchange data between providers and give patients access to their health records,” said King.
“These policies may increase the rate at which physicians are able to use their EHRs to realize benefits such as not ordering duplicate lab tests and identifying needed tests," she added.
"The study reinforces our view that meaningful use of EHR technologies can deliver clinical benefits and improve outcomes," chair of the Electronic Health Record Association and senior director of strategy and operations for Siemens Healthcare, Mickey McGlynn , stated in a news release.
Moreover, McGlynn pointed out that the majority of care delivery in the U.S is provided in office settings with 10 or fewer physicians, and these environments have fewer resources to support health IT.
"Because of that, they have historically been late adopters of EHRs. Successful EHR adoption requires provider organization to integrate technology into their workflows and to adjust workflows over time to support their practices and specialties,” she said.
McGlynn added that the study could help those hesitant to invest in EHR technology to come to a realization that benefits may not be achieved on the spot, but rather over time.
"EHR adoption is a journey not a destination. All stakeholders must collaborate to ensure that requirements to achieve both benefits and incentives are practical and do not add unnecessary burdens to busy providers who must make patient care their top priority,” she said.
The results of the survey were reported by Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health.