The two-part study, commissioned through the independent market research firm, Gerson Lehrman Group, consisted of an open-ended online survey of forty physician practices with five or more full time physicians plus follow-up telephone interviews with six of them. The study shows that healthcare providers continue to rely heavily on paper documents as a common medium for exchange between providers in the patient care continuum.
The survey and interviews were conducted by Dr. Scott Finley and Dr. Jack Varga, seasoned clinicians and informatics experts. The objective of the study was to understand how practices handle paper within their practices, the challenges that arise in a paper-based or hybrid medical record system and their satisfaction with their current practices. The results of the study provide interesting insight not only into the progress the United States healthcare system has made in adopting electronic health records but also just how far it has to go before patient care documentation processes are predominantly electronic. While the study was based on U.S. physician's offices it is our belief that the results of the study are representative of ambulatory care providers operating in healthcare systems outside of the U.S. The biggest differences between national healthcare systems tend be related to the payment or reimbursement processes while clinical workflows—particularly those involving the exchange of patient information between care providers— tend to be similar.
While 80% of the practices surveyed have implemented an electronic medical record (EMR) system all forty practices that voluntarily participated in the study continue to generate, receive and manage paper records. Persistence of paper in an EHR environment will continue to be a topic of discussion and area needing further technological improvements in document capture and recognition algorithms.
This white paper will help to summarize several important points that stand out in ambulatory physician practices in relation the use and implementation of an EHR.