VA study: EHRs tailored toward specialists, creating more barriers for primary care providers


EHRs are designed with specialists' needs in mind, which exacerbates challenges for primary care providers and may impede patient safety, according to a May 25 study published in the journal Human Factors.

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis analyzed research on the topic published between 2012 and 2020.

Five things to know:

  1. A primary care provider has more than 93 patient encounters in a week and may have 2,367 patients under their care, according to a 2019 report in The Washington Post. Lack of provider-facing EHRs may increase a provider's perception of patient load and lead to burnout.

  2. The study reviewed 1,054 studies on the topic and narrowed it down to 19 studies. Studies found EHRs were misaligned with a provider's workflow and created usability and communication challenges. Lab results and care plans were often incomplete, irrelevant or not updated in a timely manner. 

  3. EHRs are tailored for specialists, operating rooms and hospitals, but there has not been a focus on primary care providers who use the system, according to a June 15 news release on the study.

  4. The study found EHRs contained too much data for providers to sift through for it to inform a provider's care plan. EHRs require consistently shuffling through tabs and don't have many desired features such as auto-save. These factors have the potential to contribute to an increase in errors.

  5. Difficulties produced by EHRs made it harder for primary care providers to have even a basic level of situational awareness to assist with decision-making. A lack of situational awareness is linked to increases in errors and risks of adverse outcomes.

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