The Emerging EHR Divide
Now that EHR systems are widely deployed across the vast majority of U.S. hospitals, the question of how and by whom they are used is of increasing interest to various stakeholders. One recent study reports an emerging digital “advanced use” divide – researchers say small and rural hospitals are making less sophisticated use of their EHRs than large and urban hospitals are. Specifically, the researchers evaluated use of EHRs for performance measurement and patient engagement, functions which they associated with improving patient outcomes.
These findings are interesting, and suggest another question: Does physician (dis)satisfaction with EHRs correlate in any way to this digital “advanced use” divide? Will helping all physicians to embrace even the basic* functions of EHRs put hospitals in a better position to migrate to the more advanced EHR applications? (After all, there are well known physician usability issues associated with many EHR systems.) The current emphasis on EHR optimization by hospital IT departments suggests this might well be the case.
Determining such a correlation would require a separate piece of research. In the meantime, many hospitals continue to do the hard work of making their EHRs more physician friendly, which can only help clinical operations in both the short and long term.
* “Basic” EHR functions include electronically maintaining patient demographic information, physician notes, nursing assessments, patient problem lists, patient medication lists, and discharge summaries; electronically viewing laboratory reports, radiologic reports, and diagnostic test results; and electronically ordering medications.