The Impact of Physician EHR Usage on Patient Satisfaction
16 June 2017
15 November 2017
03 January 2018 (online)
Background and Significance
The increased emphasis on patient satisfaction has coincided with the growing adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) throughout the U.S. The 2001 Institute of Medicine Report, “Crossing the Quality Chasm,” identified patient-centered care as a key element of quality health care. In response to this call, the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey was developed to assess patients' health care experiences in the inpatient setting. Simultaneously, financial incentives have facilitated the rapid adoption of EHR applications, with 84% of hospitals maintaining at least a basic EHR in 2015 (a ninefold increase since 2008).
Despite the concurrent deployment of patient satisfaction surveys and EHRs, there is a poor understanding of the relationship that may exist between physician usage of the EHR and patient satisfaction. Most prior research into the impact of the EHR on physician–patient communication has been observational, describing the behaviors of physicians and patients when the clinician accesses an EHR in the exam room. Past research has shown that encounters where physicians access the EHR are often filled with long pauses, and that few clinicians attempt to engage patients by sharing what they are looking at on the screen. A recent meta-analysis reviewing 53 papers found that only 7 studies attempted to correlate objective observations of physician communication behaviors with patient perceptions by eliciting feedback from the patients. No study used a standardized assessment tool of patient satisfaction. The authors conclude that additional work is necessary to better understand the patient perspective of the presence of an EHR during a clinical encounter.
Additionally, increasing EHR adoption and emphasis on patient satisfaction have also corresponded with rising physician burnout rates.  Prior work suggests that EHR adoption may be contributing to this trend. Burnout from the EHR may be due in part to the significant amount of time physicians spend logged into systems, documenting long after clinic has ended in effort to avoid disrupting the patient–physician relationship.
We used existing data sources to describe the relationship between the amount of time physicians spend logged in to the EHR—both during daytime hours as well after clinic hours—and performance on a validated patient satisfaction survey. Our null hypothesis is that there is no relationship between increased time logged in to the EHR and patient satisfaction.
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