11 Undeniable Truths About EHRs and Paper Charts

MAY 10, 2016
Clark Gaither, MD
From the outset I knew electronic health records (EHRs) were yet another boondoggle. Too much money was being thrown at this technology that had not been tested on very large scales, was burdened with too many associated mandates, and generated way too much upfront hype over functionality. The fact is, most providers hate EHRs, and they are now cited as a huge source of provider burnout.
Yes indeed, the federal government and its sycophant medical academicians came galloping in to rescue us from mediocrity with the promise of digital heaven. What we got instead were tickets to digital hell. For all of their promise, I give EHRs a grade of F-.
Before I continue with this itinerant screed, I should point out I have seen and evaluated at least a dozen different EHRs over the years and the only real difference among them seems to be the amount of frustration, anger, or outright hate they engender in the end user. This is always in direct and opposite proportion to the enthusiasm of the vendor who is selling them.
In the very beginning, do you remember how good it all sounded? So easy to use; no more paper to shuffle around; easy and quick access to a patient's medical information; and global interconnectivity with all healthcare providers and stakeholders? Has this actually been your experience, doctor?
I will begin by substituting the word "easy" with the words "absurdly and monumentally frustrating." I can never get my EHR to do what I want it to do (what I need it to do) when I need it to do it. There isn't a programmer on the planet who can make these things work in the way primary care physicians think or solve problems.
Here is the big obvious problem: If you need an amanuensis, factotum, or scribe to enter information into an EHR on your behalf in order to get all of your work completed, then the EHR is too complicated, cumbersome, or unsuitable for the doctor to use. This is inefficiency at its worst -- the exact opposite of what was promised.

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