Nearly 30 percent of docs say EHRs negatively affect care

Many reported difficulty with vendors’ IT specialists.

The impact of an electronic health record appears to be in the eye of the beholder -- or the physician trying to use it.

In its “EHR Report 2012: Physicians Rank Top EHRs,” Medscape found that while 36 percent said their EHRs had a positive impact on doctor-patient relations, 30 percent said it had a negative impact. "Staring at a screen leads to a more impersonal encounter," wrote one internist, according to Medscape. And while 15 percent said they were more productive using an EHR, 26 percent said they were less productive. Slightly fewer, 23 percent, thought their office was more efficient with an EHR.

Physician attitudes going into an EHR implementation appeared to play a role, the survey found. Roughly 62 percent of physicians queried were “somewhat” or “strongly” supportive of an EHR before implementation. After implementation, the proportion feeling the same was 67 percent. After implementation, the proportion of doctors who were somewhat or strongly against an EHR increased from 12 percent to 14 percent.

When asked to rate satisfaction with their EHR vendors, 45 percent were satisfied, 35 percent were neutral, and 21 percent were unsatisfied, according to Medscape. Doctors frequently complained that the EHR wasn’t tailored to their specialty. They also noted difficulties in working with their vendors’ IT specialists.

"The doctor purchased the EHR through a salesperson, and the salesperson asked all the right questions about operational challenges," is how EHR expert Ronald B. Sterling described the challenge in commentary accompanying the survey results. "Now the job gets turned over to the vendor's implementation person, who is starting from zero again. Then, most vendors turn it over to their support staff. The support staff doesn't know anything about the doctor; they've never been to your office. They try to jump into the fray, but often they don't understand the context of your organization and may not be giving advice targeted to your situation."

More than half of the respondents, 54 percent, also expressed disappointment with their EHR’s interconnectivity, according to the survey.

The Medscape survey queried 21,202 respondents across 25 specialties in early June. The full report is available with free registration. Medscape is part of WebMD.