Research by UAMS Clinical Informatics Fellowship alumna Lori Wong, M.D., MPH, on the impact of electronic health record (EHR) system upgrades on physicians has been published in the October issue of Applied Clinical Informatics Open.
Dr. Wong is the first author on the paper, “The Impact of an Organization-Wide Electronic Health Record (EHR) System Upgrade on Physicians’ Daily EHR Activity Time: An EHR Log Data Study,” with co-authors Kevin Sexton, M.D., and Joseph Sanford, M.D. Drs. Sexton and Sanford are faculty rotation supervisors for the UAMS Clinical Informatics Fellowship Program, and Dr. Sanford is the program’s site director for UAMS.
The study assesses the impact of routine EHR upgrades on providers’ daily EHR activity time and found that there is no significant difference in user activity time after an upgrade. The work was accomplished by using a real-life example of an August 2020 upgrade at UAMS Health. This study suggests that dedicated efforts to improve usability are needed to decrease user time in the EHR, however, Dr. Wong noted that more research is needed.
The study found no significant difference in user times.
However, Dr. Wong noted that more research is needed. The study could serve as a proof of concept for future studies to explore the connection between upgrades and user efficiency.
“In an era when we’re considering the EHR as a potential source of physician stress and burnout but are also aware of the need for continuous system upgrades to improve system security and usability, this is an important area of study,” Dr. Wong said. “We need to understand more about how these upgrades impact users so that we can help EHR developers and hospital systems strike a balance between timely upgrades to EHR systems and the impact on the people using them.”
Dr. Wong noted in the study that the upgrade in question did not drastically impact the user interface. She suggested future studies using a similar study design could look at a variety of types of upgrades, especially those that change the user interface.
Dr. Wong’s study looked at user times 8 weeks before and 8 weeks after the upgrade. She also suggested future research might track changes in user behavior in smaller intervals over time – with the goal of more closely identifying when any potential impact on users might occur after an upgrade.
“Usability and factors that improve efficient in the EHR is an area of research that is ripe for exploration,” Dr. Sexton said. “The possibilities for improving EHR usability are vast and could help decrease the workload of the healthcare team. At the end of the day, these systems need to serve users first. Understanding the impact of upgrades on the real-world people who use them is key.”
ACI Open is an open access companion journal to Applied Clinical Informatics (ACI).