EHR Data Aids Clinicians in Efficiency

Hospitals’ access to data in electronic health records (EHR) has significantly increased since 2017, but gaps in use remain for lower-resourced hospitals, a recent study by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information finds.

Published in the special health IT issue of the American Journal of Managed Care, the “Trends in Electronic Health Record Capabilities for Tracking Documentation Time” study finds that almost 70 percent of hospitals reported having access to EHR documentation data.

Audit logs and other sources of data from EHR systems provide a detailed record of clinical activity within the systems – like notetaking, chart review, or messaging.

The data allows clinicians to identify areas where improvement is needed – for example, providers in need of training and support or areas where clinical workflow can be more efficient.

“Making these data more accessible could significantly improve hospital organizations’ and physician practices’ ability to monitor the amount of time their clinicians spend in the EHR,” said Chelsea Richwine, co-author of the study.

“Improving data accessibility and aiding interpretation via tools and dashboards can increase the utility of these data by making them more actionable for organizational decision-makers,” she wrote, adding, “This has important implications for the ability of organizations to reduce burden, improve job satisfaction for clinicians, and mitigate burnout and staff turnover – issues that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.”

A higher proportion of hospitals with access to EHR documentation time measures used them for more purposes over time, suggesting their increased value, Richwine and her co-author Vaishali Patel found.

Despite this, lower-resourced hospitals, nonteaching hospitals, and hospitals with non-market-leading EHR developers were less likely to report having access than their counterparts.

“Lower-resourced hospitals were consistently less likely to track or use EHR documentation time measures compared with their larger, urban counterparts,” the study says. “[Smaller] developers may continue to lag in their ability to provide hospitals access to these measures.”

“However, as the use of more advanced standards for audit logs increases, leveraging audit log data for secondary purposes – such as the development of tools for tracking documentation time and optimizing EHRs – should become simpler,” the study says.

The authors continued, “Such advancements may enable non-market-leading developers to generate and make these types of tools more accessible to their clients, including hospitals with fewer resources that are more likely to be using smaller developers.”