Physician proficiency increases with EHR experience

For new resident physicians already overwhelmed in learning a new specialty, learning how to use a new electronic health record (EHR) system presents just one more challenge.

EHRs that are difficult for residents to use present a steep learning curve, but a new study in JMIR Human Factors found differences in novice and experienced physicians' performance demonstrates that new residents' proficiency increases with experience using the EHR.

The study, which took place at the University of Missouri Health System in Columbia, Missouri, looked at learnability gaps between expert and novice primary care resident physician groups by comparing performance measures when using an EHR system. The study looked at first year resident physicians' performance (novice) with the EHR after three and seven months using the system, and compared it to performance by second and third-year residents (expert). The same size was small: 10 first-year residents and six second and third-year residents at three months, followed by a comparison of eight novice and four expert physicians at seven months.

"Overall, this study identified varying degrees of learnability gaps between expert and novice physician groups that may impede the use of EHRs," said the researchers from the University of Missouri and University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. "Our results suggest that longer experience with an EHR may not be equivalent to being an expert or proficient in its use."

Results of the study may help EHR vendors improve their user interface so physicians can effectively use the system. The study may also assist in the design of education and training programs by highlighting the tasks that are difficult for resident physicians, the researchers said.

Other studies have also pointed out the difficulties of new residents working with EHRs. One study found medical interns spent as much as seven hours a day on EHRs when first starting to use the system, time that decreased to roughly five hours a day as they became more familiar with the system. Another study found EHR use reduced direct patient care time and changes clinician workflow even among medical residents, as FierceEMR previously reported. 

To learn more:
- read the study