As physicians started incorporating electronic health record systems (EMRs/EHRs) into their practices, patients complained that doctors spent more time looking at the monitors then at them.  People pined that they spent more time looking at the top or back of the physician’s head than at their face-  a real disconnect for an already shortened face-to-face time.

Certainly there was a real learning curve for doctors to juggle how to concentrate on the

EHR template and the patient simultaneously.  Some chose to use dictation systems with data incorporation after clinical hours were finished, adding to chaos and an already time-consuming process.

Fast-Forward to Actual Use of EHR Systems

Although many health providers implemented electronic records to fulfill federal mandates or apply for incentive funds, an unexpected benefit has been from the patients themselves.

According to Drs. White and Danis of the NIH, who published an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association on June 12th, EHRs actually improve patient-physician relationships.

“When clinicians invite patients to view the computer screen and parts of the electronic chart, it not only avoids uncomfortable periods of idle silence that sometimes accompany EHR-related tasks, but it may enhance the relationship aspect of patient-physician communication in a way that fosters patient activation in real time”.

The EMR Patient Impact Study finds that patients using the system are more satisfied with their doctors (78% vs. 68%). They stated higher satisfaction across several care aspects i.e. information access, clarity and thoroughness of communication. Patients in the study also used EHR’s to:

  • Check test results
  • Schedule appointments
  • Refill prescriptions

Tamara O’Shaughness, Vice President of Aeffect, the research firm conducting the Impact Study, stated “There is solid evidence that the investment providers continue to make ion EMR systems is likely to put adopters at a competitive advantage and yield dividends beyond the expected operational efficiencies- namely it will enhance patient loyalty and satisfaction.”

Yet Another Benefit to Patients and Doctors

Patient Portals have been incorporated into EHR systems. This is  online access for patients to communicate with both doctors and office or hospital staff- a direct link for the patients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The advantages are that in addition to cutting down on frustration from not being able to get in touch with the office, the patient is then enabled to:

  • Send information
  • Ask questions
  • Schedule appointments
  • Update records
  • Pay bills
  • Patient portals cut down on administrative demands for the medical practice enabling physicians and staff to spend more time concentrating on the patients themselves and also get familiar with problems or issues that the patient faces which may be forgotten at the time of the office encounter.

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