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The EHR’s Impact on Patient Satisfaction

by Margaret Schulte, consultant, HIMSS EHR Value Suite Collection

Many researchers agree that there is a link between patient satisfaction and outcomes of care. Research findings have weighed in heavily in support of this link, so much so that payers have included patient satisfaction measures in their reimbursement formulae.   Providers have, in response, turned increased attention to improving patient satisfaction.  Many providers have, for example, assigned “the patient experience” to the responsibility of an individual in top management, and it is common for patients to receive survey questionnaires when they leave the hospital or other clinical visit.   

Closely tied to patient satisfaction is the satisfaction of physicians and staff. If they are unhappy, they will transmit that unhappiness into the environment of patient care and even, at times, at the bedside. The electronic health record (EHR) has helped to improve satisfaction among those in the care environment by saving time, increasing confidence in decisions, improving teamwork, and more. 

In medical practices, physicians and staff have reported that:

  • At Alpenglow Medical, Fort Collins, Colo., the EHR is increasing patient satisfaction by allowing the doctor to sit and listen and not rush through the patient visit.
  • Patients perceive higher quality care with the EHR in place at Dr. Stephen Veit’s practice in Cherokee, Ia.
  • Patients like that Family Practice Associates in Wilmington, Del., is on the cutting edge of technology and are more confident that records are accurate.
  • The EHR has reduced patient wait times by 15 to 30 minutes per visit at AppleCare in Savannah, Ga. At Arrowhead Health, Glendale, Ariz., the EHR has reduced patient wait times by 50 percent.  
  • Physicians at Moore Center for Orthopedics in Columbia, S.C., have recaptured an hour and a half per day, while Ernest Vasti, M.D., of Stockton, Calif., no longer has a stack of paper charts to be completed when he leaves at night.  
  • At the Dr. Randy Walker Family Practice and Allergy Clinic in DeQueen, Ark., staff feels empowered with improved teamwork and communication. 

Similarly, hospitals and health systems report numerous ways in which patients, physicians and staff are more satisfied following the implementation and adoption of an EHR. For example:

  • Patients at Arkansas Heart Hospital in Little Rock appreciate not having to answer the same questions over and over again. Once their information is in the EHR, that information is accessible by other providers.
  • For the Carolinas Health Care System in Charlotte, N.C., virtual healthcare services eliminate the need for some patients to travel to physicians' offices for care. Similarly, since Kaiser Permanente of Northern California implemented email communication between patients and doctors, in-person visits to the healthcare provider dropped by 36 percent.
  • Since implementing its EHR, Eastern Maine Health System in Bangor has found that the technology helped to inspire patient confidence and give them a greater sense of safety. 
  • Altru Health System in Grand Forks, N.D., reports that patient satisfaction has increased with the reduction in duplicate procedures.
  • Waiting times in EDs have been problematic for both EDs and patients generally.  However, an EHR’s tracking system can to cut these wait time significantly. At North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, the average amount of time patients spend in the ED has been reduced from 4 ½ to 6 hours to 2 to 3 hours. 
  • For St. Clair Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pa., patient satisfaction scores for fast, high quality and safe care in the ED increased from the 14th to 99th percentile. In addition, the time for a patient to see a physician was reduced from 76 minutes to 28 minutes over a one-year period. 
  • Patients who use the EHR patient portal are more satisfied with their care than those patients who don't use it, according to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.
  • Use of e-prescribing at Community Health Centers in Winter Gardens, Fla., reduces patient's wait times for prescriptions. 
  • An EHR facilitated a 50 percent reduction in patient complaints due to improved turnaround time from one week to 24 hours for renewal requests at the Greater Rochester, N.Y., Independent Practice Association.
  • The Yale-New Haven Hospital EHR facilitates the rescheduling of medication administration, blood draws and vital sign monitoring; this feature reduces the need to awaken patients between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. by 35 percent.

The HIMSS EHR Value Suite Collection assembles examples of health IT value, according to the STEPS model, with the first S representing “satisfaction.” This criterion of satisfaction encompasses patient satisfaction and reflects values such as improved HCAHPS survey data, reduced patient wait times, and other factors of value to patients.   Satisfaction also includes values related to physicians, other clinicians and staff who are an important factor in patient satisfaction and in the overall operation of the organization.  To date, over 1,000 value statements about specific points of improved satisfaction due to the implementation of an EHR have been included in the EHR Value Suite Collection.  

Bottom line, the EHR can be a key factor in improving the satisfaction of both patients and the clinicians and staff involved in their care. Satisfaction is an important part of the quality of any healthcare enterprise, leading to improved outcomes, both clinical and financial.

Find out why Dr. Michael Zaroukian, Chair of the HIMSS North America Board of Directors, attends HIMSS17.  

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