Shopping for an Electronic Health Record System?

2012 EHR User Satisfaction Survey Provides Feedback From FP Colleagues

November 19, 2012 04:15 pm Sheri Porter

It's official. Family Practice Management garnered the largest response ever -- 3,088 family physician participants -- for the fifth iteration of its electronic health record (EHR) survey.

[Family Practice Management Cover]

This year's offering, titled "The 2012 EHR User Satisfaction Survey: Responses from 3,088 Family Physicians," (Members/Paid Subscribers Only) appears in the November/December Family Practice Management. And as authors of the survey noted upfront, "Where else can you get EHR advice from a few thousand colleagues?"

Kenneth Adler, M.D., co-author of the survey report, confirmed to AAFP News Now that this was the fifth EHR user satisfaction survey undertaken by FPM. The timing of the 2012 survey came just 16 months after what is usually a biennial project.

"We did it sooner this time, given the rapidly accelerated EHR adoption that has occurred since the CMS EHR incentive programs got underway last year," said Adler.

story highlights

  • Family Practice Management has released the results of its 2012 electronic health record (EHR) user satisfaction survey.
  • The 2012 survey garnered more physician responses -- 3,088 -- than any other survey in the series.
  • Usability issues, lost productivity and lack of vendor support are issues of concern to physicians.

Adler, a practicing family physician, is medical director of information technology for Arizona Community Physicians in Tucson, Ariz., and a certified professional in health care information and management systems.

He noted that more than 200 EHR products are currently on the market. "We want to help family physicians zoom in on the products that their fellow family physicians both use and have found most satisfying," said Adler.

The survey itself fulfills multiple needs. For example, it contains critical information to help FPs select their first EHR system or replace an existing system that's underperforming.

"We'd like to help folks choose well. Making a poor choice can have a hugely negative impact on a practice," said Adler.

The information gathered in the survey also provides feedback to EHR vendors whose products -- at least in the eyes of physician users -- could use some adjustments.

Adler pointed out that only 38 percent of users participating in the survey were highly satisfied with their EHRs. "Usability issues and negative impact on physician productivity continue to be concerns," said Adler. "Vendor support remains an area of weakness for EHR vendors."

Survey Highlights

Survey authors focused on the 31 specific EHR systems that had enough physician response to represent a reasonable variety of opinions.

Practices of various sizes were represented in the survey. Nearly half of survey respondents hailed from practices with 10 or fewer physicians and almost as many came from practices of more than 20 physicians.

In one portion of the survey, participants were asked to note their level of agreement or disagreement with 19 statements about EHRs using these terms: strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree, strongly disagree and unsure.

For example, family physicians were asked about the ease of documentation, clarity of information display, help in avoiding mistakes, ability to create notes that promote better patient care, availability of useful preventive medicine tools and ability of the system to process electronic prescriptions.

Survey respondents also were asked about their general satisfaction with their system and if they enjoyed using their EHRs.

Physicians supplied answers that helped study authors make some overall observations based on positive responses. For example, regarding top areas of satisfaction, users were most happy with the way their EHRs

  • facilitated intra-office messaging and tasking (60 percent),
  • found information (58 percent),
  • documented data (57 percent), and
  • facilitated electronic prescribing (56 percent).

On the other hand, areas of lowest satisfaction based on positive responses were

  • effect on productivity (16 percent),
  • effect on the physician's ability to focus on patient care (24 percent), and
  • vendor support (36 percent).

The authors noted that only 38 percent of users agreed or strongly agreed that they were highly satisfied with their EHR systems. In addition, 37 percent of respondents -- 1,131 family physicians -- agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, "I enjoy using this EHR."

Authors noted that, as in past surveys, their goal was not to pick EHR system "winners," however.

Using Survey Content

How can family physicians best use the information they glean from the 2012 EHR survey?

"Study it," said Adler. "Don't just look at one rating or number. There isn't one best system. Give extra weight to the elements that strike you as most important." For even more data, graphs for the responses to all 19 statements are in an online appendix.

The bottom line for family physicians is that choosing an EHR still isn't easy. "Do your homework and tread carefully," urged Adler. "Unfortunately EHRs still have a long way to go to achieve widespread satisfaction. But do pick one."