Health IT Pulse

Jan 13 2011   10:57AM GMT

Can EMR technology reduce productivity?

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EHR implementation
physician productivity

By David Schneider, Editorial Assistant

Electronic medical records can streamline the process of gathering and viewing patient information — but does EMR technology actually decrease productivity among physicians? A recent University of California (UC) Davis study, detailed in Healthcare IT News, set out to answer this question, as well as another: If productivity is changed, does it vary by hospital department?

In the study, which took place from 2003 to 2006, more than 100 physicians from three primary areas (internal medicine, pediatrics and family care) were provided with EMR technology.

All the departments initially saw a large drop in physician productivity, in some cases as high as 33%. Hemant Bhargava, associate dean and professor of management and computer science at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, considered these initial results to be normal, because the physicians were trying to learn the new EMR technology.

As time passed, however, internal medicine staff increased their productivity to a rate slightly higher than their rate before the EMR technology. Physicians in pediatrics and family care, however, were unable to reach their previous rate of productivity, let alone exceed it.

For Bhargava, this made sense: Reviewing patient notes, images and other information is more efficient with EMR technology, and internists spend much of their time on information review, he noted. Pediatricians, on the other hand, spend more time on data entry, which can be tedious and time-consuming.

The UC Davis study, then, should provide food for thought for organizations implementing EMR. Because the gains and losses from EMR technology will vary among departments, everything from productivity projections to user interface customizations will have to be adapted accordingly. Such an approach can improve physician buy-in and up the odds of a successful EMR implementation.

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