What Do Nearly 2,800 Family Docs Think About Their EHRs?

FPM Publishes Fourth EHR User Satisfaction Survey

August 09, 2011 04:15 pm Sheri Porter

For family physicians on the hunt for an electronic health record, or EHR, system, the most recent Family Practice Management EHR survey could prove helpful. The survey garners opinions about identified EHR systems from 2,719 FPs, a growth in respondents of more than 550 percent since the survey was first published in 2005.

"The 2011 EHR User Satisfaction Survey," which appears in the July/August issue, rates 30 identified EHR systems on 17 dimensions, including

  • ease of ordering lab tests,
  • ease and effectiveness of documenting care,
  • rapidity and ease of electronic prescribing,
  • potential for qualifying for Medicare or Medicaid incentive dollars,
  • training and support from the EHR vendor, and
  • satisfaction level.

Respondents ranked the ability to customize their EHR system at the top of their satisfaction list; 78 percent said they were satisfied or very satisfied with this aspect of their system. This was followed by electronic prescribing capability (70 percent) and electronic messaging function (69 percent).

Respondents were least satisfied with vendor support and training; only 39 percent of respondents were satisfied or very satisfied in this area, 31 percent were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied, and 25 percent were neutral on the question. In addition, just 49 percent of respondents said they were satisfied overall with their EHR system; 30 percent of respondents said they were dissatisfied.

Story Highlights

  • Family Practice Management recently published results of its fourth electronic health record, or EHR, user satisfaction survey.
  • The survey rates 30 EHR systems on 17 dimensions and provides the names of specific systems.
  • Survey results show that physicians who provide input into the EHR selection process are more satisfied with the system after it is implemented.

Only 39 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they would purchase their current system a second time. The survey also found that 14 percent of respondents had switched to a different EHR at least once because they didn't like their previous system, which could be a sign of a maturing market, said FPM editors.

According to FPM Editor-in-Chief Robert Edsall, readers should not expect to get definitive advice on the perfect system for their individual practices from the survey. "We're providing help, but we're not providing the answer," he said.

"We don't claim that the results are statistically valid," Edsall added. But, "the sheer size of the respondent base is enough in itself to mean that the results are worthy of attention. It would be very difficult for a family physician to do the research necessary to find 100-200 people who use a given system and ask them what they think of it. So we view the survey as having done that networking for the family physician."

This fourth iteration of FPM's EHR user satisfaction survey held a couple of surprises for Edsall, the first being the large number of responses received this time around considering that the first survey was done in 2005 and garnered responses from just 408 family physicians.

"It's an indication of the growth in computerization of family medicine practices, and also perhaps a growing recognition of the survey," said Edsall.

"I was also surprised to see the number of systems that we had not run into before," he added.

Edsall said FPM also found that physicians' satisfaction with their EHR systems seemed to be positively correlated with their participation in the selection process of the system.

"If you'll imagine a solo practice where one physician is making the choice of a system, it stands to reason that he or she would be more likely to be pleased than in a situation where perhaps 20 physicians in a large practice choose a system, and 500 physicians have no input whatsoever and have a system thrust upon them."

Edsall also noted that the FPM article does not recommend a specific system. "We're measuring satisfaction on a number of different scales," he said. The variability in systems and their features preclude a single solution for all practices. Features valuable to one practice may be less valuable to another practice, said Edsall.

He ticked off several considerations physicians should take into account before deciding to invest in such a large purchase, including

  • initial and ongoing costs of owning the system,
  • workflow demands,
  • system support of practice workflows, and
  • compatibility with the physician's practice management system.

In addition, physicians need to consider whether an EHR system has been certified by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, or ONC. Certification by the ONC is a requirement for some of the EHR incentive programs offered by the federal government.

According to Edsall, family physicians should expect more EHR user satisfaction surveys from FPM down the road. "With the accelerating pace of practices' computerization, it's going to need to be done more often in the near future," he said.