What Your Patients Want From An EHR

"I'm sorry, Doctor, but I'd prefer it if you were typing into a computer right now instead of talking to me."

I think there is a misconception out there that patient’s will begin demanding that their physicians use an EHR.  Many practices and healthcare organizations have even begun touting their newly implemented systems in bids to attract new patients.  The message is simple enough: We have fancy new technology so you should come to us instead of those people across the street. From a marketing perspective, yes, that does work at a subliminal level because patients associate newer technology with better care, but the message is weak.  A strikingly large number of patients don’t know what exactly an EHR is and nor do they really care.  They just assume (incorrectly sometimes) that new technology makes things better. Before too many new patients are reeled in with that ad campaign, those people across the street strike back: Now we have an EHR and it’s better!

From a patient’s perspective, what is an EHR actually good for?  Yes you can tout the interaction checking and the evidenced based templates you are using, but they stick with you because they trust you already.  What they really want to hear is how it will help you communicate with them when they aren’t actually in the office.  So if you’re contemplating going down the long and winding EHR road because you think it will help attract more patients, it won’t work.  In fact, you can get the benefits that the patient’s really want to see without even implementing a full EHR!  Patients want on-line bill pay, they want their prescriptions sent electronically, they want to see their lab results as soon as possible and they really would like to send you an e-mail/message once in awhile instead of having to call or come in for every little thing.  Companies such as DrFirst and Labcorp, can take care things like e-Rx and on-line lab results without requiring you to buy an EHR.

Are EHRs the way of the future? Yes, they are in some respects.  I truly feel that capturing discreet data is necessary to gather and report to study how we deliver care and how we can improve the population’s health.  However, the most frustrating part of using an EHR right now is the documenting of a patient visit.  In the meantime though, know which aspects of the technology you’re being asked to implement are what the patient really wants.  Patients think it’s easy to input data because they do it on Facebook all day, it’s how they spend their leisure time.  Some might even assume you type up all that you write down into a computer after their visit.  But what patient’s really want and care about is to get the information they want, when they want it and when they aren’t in your office.  If you see smart marketing campaigns by healthcare organizations, they’re all about how you as the patient can access everything on-line.  People associate being able to do things on-line with being more efficient.  The draw is an enhanced communication and this doesn’t require a full EHR.

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