Although there is significant interest in implementation of electronic health records (EHRs), limited data have been published in the United States about how physicians, staff, and patients adapt to this implementation process. The purpose of this research was to examine the effects of EHR implementation, especially regarding physician-patient communication and behaviors and patients’ responses.
We undertook a 22-month, triangulation design, mixed methods study of gradual EHR implementation in a residency-based family medicine outpatient center. Data collection included participant observation and time measurements of 170 clinical encounters, patient exit interviews, focus groups with nurses, nurse’s aides, and office staff, and unstructured observations and interviews with nursing staff and physicians. Analysis involved iterative immersion-crystallization discussion and searches for alternate hypotheses.
Patient trust in the physician and security in the physician-patient relationship appeared to override most patients’ concerns about information technology. Overall, staff concerns about potential deleterious consequences of EHR implementation were dispelled, positive anticipated outcomes were realized, and unexpected benefits were found. Physicians appeared to become comfortable with the “third actor” in the room, and nursing and office staff resistance to EHR implementation was ameliorated with improved work efficiencies. Unexpected advantages included just-in-time improvements and decreased physician time out of the examination room.
Strong patient trust in the physician-patient relationship was maintained and work flow improved with EHR implementation. Gradual EHR implementation may help support the development of beneficial physician and staff adaptations, while maintaining positive patient-physician relationships and fostering the sharing of medical information.
Shield RR, Goldman RE, Anthony DA, Wang N, Doyle RJ, Borkan J. Gradual electronic health record implementation: new insights on physician and patient adaptation. Ann Fam Med. 2010 Aug;8(4):316-326.