Many doctors have negative views toward changes they believe hamper their ability to treat patients.
To that end, I read with great interest Medscape's new report about how several recent articles on electronic health records had generated a flood of responses from physicians, many of them intense, emotionally charged and diverse.
Physicians have long felt the brunt of change in healthcare. Reimbursement has stagnated, compliance obligations are going through the roof and insurers and new payment models dictate how they practice medicine.
Electronic health records seem to fall into a different category, however, since many physicians embrace them. While some studies indicate that the systems have "significantly worsened" doctor satisfaction, others have found that dissatisfaction levels are decreasing, at least with primary care physicians.
Why is there so much of a difference of opinion about EHRs in the physician community? Why after all these years, is there still so much frustration? I suspect there are several factors at play here.
For starters, EHRs impact functionality and usability. They require workflow changes, and physicians don't like being told that they need to change the way they operate.
Physicians also don't get much opportunity to influence EHR design. Some of them don't or can't take a role in choosing which system to purchase.
And much of it has to do with each physician's personal experience with an EHR. If someone was part of the decision-making process, went through an easier transition, had decent training and enjoyed vendor support, he or she most likely would be happier with their EHR.
Still, while it's true that people are more likely to air negative opinions than positive ones, that doesn't explain why my dentist, who doesn't qualify for the Meaningful Use program, loves using an EHR while my dermatologist is adamantly opposed to them and still uses paper records. They're about the same age, so it's not a technology generational gap.
It isn't healthy for such a large segment of the industry to be unhappy with a tool seemingly this vital. Like it or not, healthcare is slowly going electronic; 61 percent of doctors already are using EHRs. But it would be better if more physicians actually embraced use of the systems.
While it's easy to blame the Meaningful Use program, the problem is larger than that.
How did we get to this point? And what can be done about it? Is this just physicians griping or have the industry and the government provided insufficient support? And will it be the same in ensuing years?