Giving Patients Access to EHRs Does Not Increase Provider Workloads

March 10, 2015 in News

Allowing patients to view their electronic health records during hospital stays does not drastically increase nurses’ and physicians’ workloads, according to a University of Colorado study published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, Reuters reports.

Details of Study

To assess what patients might learn while viewing their EHRs during hospitals stays, University of Colorado assistant professor Jonathan Pell and his team provided tablet computers to 50 individuals who knew how to use the Internet. Most of the individuals had home computers, and more than half had laptops or smartphones with them.

The average age of participating patients was 42 years old, and about 75% had annual incomes of $45,000 or less.

Researchers also questioned 42 health care providers about how they thought patients would respond to viewing their EHRs.

Findings

Overall, the study found that allowing patients to view their EHRs did not create additional work for doctors or nurses.

Specifically, researchers found that before patients viewed the records:

  • 68% of surveyed doctors expected it would lead to additional work; and
  • All 14 nurses who were surveyed thought it would result in more work.

However, after patients viewed their records:

  • 36% of doctors reported larger workloads; and
  • Half of the nurses reported additional workloads.

Pell noted that patients did not notice medical errors the way the researchers “had hoped” they would. Pell said, “The hope is that increased transparency achieved by sharing [EHRs] with patients while they’re in the hospital would make them more engaged in their care, more satisfied and more likely to ask questions and catch errors.”

Researchers found that 92% of patients before the study thought that seeing their EHRs would enable them to better understand their medical conditions, while 80% said they expected the practice to help them understand their providers’ instructions.

However, after viewing their records, 82% percent said seeing their EHR helped them understand their medical conditions, and 60% said it helped them understand their providers’ instructions.

Meanwhile, patients’ fears that reviewing their medical records would increase their feelings of worry or confusion proved false. Specifically, after viewing their EHRs:

  • The percentage of patients who felt worried fell from 42% to 18%; and
  • The percentage of patients who felt confused fell from 52% to 32% (Rapaport, Reuters, 3/9).
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