Practice Notes

Do your EMRs 'lose the patient’s story?'

Anita Joseph, Medical Group Strategy Council

A series of recent, high-profile reports from the RAND Corporation and New York Times have expressed concern on whether electronic medical records (EMRs) are living up to their promise and whether the federal government acted too soon in funding these products with stimulus money.

These are good questions, but this backward-looking criticism isn't useful for medical groups already invested in these platforms. In a recent survey, we asked how medical groups are making the best use of the EMR systems we have today.

Physicians struggle with EMR documentation, efficiency  

The result? Many medical groups are struggling to answer that question. Of the 50 groups that responded, 68% expressed ongoing concern about the impact of ambulatory EMR standards on physician workflow and clinical effectiveness. More specifically:

  • 82% say physicians struggle to complete ambulatory EMR documentation in a timely manner
  • 71% say physicians are inconsistent with the type of information they include in EMR "Problem Lists" that capture patients' chief complaints

Although these problems seem rooted in physician documentation practices, the solution isn’t as simple as teaching better documentation.

As one survey respondent said, "In the EHR, the quality of the patient-specific content is poor. The note becomes a collection of discrete data elements and we lose the patient’s story."

In some cases, efforts to improve documentation quality, such as using structured data fields, worsen documentation efficiency—making the record less clinically useful to physicians.

Learn More

Our 2013 national meeting, Prosperity in Change, will highlight solutions that progressive groups are using to engage physicians to adopt documentation standards and reconfigure EMR systems so adhering to those standards is as easy and effective as possible. Register now.