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

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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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