Electronic Records, Happy Patients

Although many healthcare provider organizations are implementing electronic records (EHRs/EMRs) in an effort to improve efficiencies or qualify for government incentive funds, healthcare leaders and clinicians might want to consider that the technology could also help make patients happy: 

1) EHRs can enhance the physician-patient relationship, according to a viewpoint article published in the June 12 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.  The authors of the piece, Amina White, M.D., and Marion Danis, M.D., both from the National Institutes of Health, Washington, D.C., purpose that EHRs can be used to encourage communication during the clinical encounter. The authors claim that patients are apt to regard the opportunity to view their electronic charts as enhancing the collaborative nature of the patient-physician relationship and as an invitation into a participatory model of care.

"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 authors  write.

2) Patients already using EHRs are more satisfied with their doctors overall (78% versus 68%) than those who are not yet using EHRs, according to the EMR Patient Impact Study conducted by research firm Aeffect and 88 Brand Partners. The patients also expressed higher satisfaction across multiple specific dimensions of care, such as ease of access to information and clarity and thoroughness of communication. The study points out that 24% of those surveyed are using EHRs to check test results, order prescription refills and make appointments -- and another 52% would like to follow suit. 

"The study findings clearly indicate a strong link between EMR users and their confidence in the quality of healthcare they receive," says Tamara O'Shaughnessy, Vice President, Aeffect. "There is solid evidence that the investment providers continue to make in 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."