While Interoperability and Technology Have Made Significant Improvements in Healthcare, They Will Make an Even Bigger Impact on Care if Their Full Potential Can Be Reached, Physicians Say, According to a New athenahealth Survey

 Vast majority of physicians believe in the value of interoperability and technology in their daily practices

Staffing shortages and high patient volumes are driving stress, dissatisfaction, and burnout among physicians; daily challenges leave physicians split on the future of U.S. healthcare

WATERTOWN, Mass.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Though increasing interoperability, technology, and better access to data have significantly enhanced the delivery of care, physicians overwhelmingly say these capabilities have yet to reach their full potential to transform U.S. healthcare, according to a new survey by athenahealth conducted by the Harris Poll. athenahealth, Inc., a leading provider of network-enabled software and services for medical groups and health systems nationwide, announced the findings in its annual Physician Sentiment Survey. The survey is designed to illuminate the physician experience and uncover physician sentiments on the state of healthcare, including technology, data, and interoperability, and the impact those things have on delivering quality care.

Missed Connections

Despite improvements made by recent legislation such as the 21st Century Cures Act, physicians are looking for more when it comes to how their tools and systems work together, the survey found. Two-thirds (66%) of respondents say that sending and receiving patient data with another provider within their electronic health record (EHR) network is easy, yet only 24% say the same about sending and receiving patient data with another provider on a different EHR. This lack of connectivity also adds to an already challenging working environment for physicians; 80% of respondents say the inability to share data between information systems increases stress levels. When asked about significant hurdles to improving connectivity, physicians cite a lack of coordination among different facilities/health systems (65%), a lack of desire among EHR vendors (61%), cost (59%), and lack of data standardization (57%).

At the same time, the vast majority of those surveyed see the power of interoperability if it could be harnessed. Nine in 10 physicians say improved connectivity between information systems can enhance patient outcomes (94%) and the overall physician experience (91%).

“It’s clear that true interoperability requires more than merely moving data between systems,” said Jessica Sweeney-Platt, vice president of research and editorial strategy at athenahealth. “Physicians need and deserve tools that deliver an interoperable experience – the right information, in the right place in their workflow, in a format that is immediately usable.”

Technology: Are we there yet?

Likewise, advances in technology and better access to data have resulted in a mixed blessing for healthcare providers, according to the survey, as many physicians report that while technology enhances their relationship with patients and helps them manage their workload, at times it also makes them feel inundated by the volume of information they receive. Physicians overwhelmingly recognize the promise of technology, according to the survey, with 90% saying with better patient data they would have more confidence in their ability to support patient needs, and 85% saying with easier access to data they would provide a better patient experience. Moreover, 78% say when they enter an exam room today, they have adequate information about the patient’s medical history and the context for the visit, and 71% of respondents report EHR platforms allow them to provide high-quality care.

At the same time, technology and data are not yet delivering on expectations, according to the survey. Fifty-nine percent of physicians say they are frustrated by the challenges of accessing clinical information on a weekly basis, 58% say they often (once a week or more) feel so overloaded with information that it increases their stress, and 89% say receiving clinical data alone is not the answer – they need the right data at the right time. “Sometimes my EHR gives me an encyclopedia and all I really need is a dictionary,” said one respondent. In addition, only 51% say technology is helping provide care that addresses social determinants of health.

The survey is based on the responses of 743 U.S.-based practicing primary care and specialist physicians. The survey was agnostic to EHR platforms; responding physicians use a variety of EHRs.

Physicians noted that technology, such as patient portals, has helped improve communication, but not without a downside; 54% of respondents say technology has diminished their ability to make an emotional connection with patients. In addition, physicians noted that the increasing number of patient inquiries has contributed to burnout, as they must take time outside of their normal workday to respond to inquiries.

Staffing Shortages and Burnout

The survey also found that healthcare is not immune to the broader hiring challenges facing most industries in the United States, with a resounding 80% of physicians reporting they face talent shortages within their organization. And as healthcare organizations grapple with the staffing crisis and the lingering impact of COVID-19, physicians surveyed noted that patient volumes have simultaneously increased – creating even more strain in their working environments. Indeed, 68% of respondents report feeling rushed on a weekly basis and not having enough time with patients. Survey respondents also cite the time management squeeze as a significant cause of physician dissatisfaction and stress.

Not surprisingly, nearly all respondents reported signs of burnout. Ninety-two percent of physicians report one or more issues that lead them to feel burned out on a regular basis. According to the survey, the leading causes of regular burnout include excessive documentation requirements (57%) and staffing challenges, including retention, shortages, and finding qualified talent (51%). Physicians also say regulatory requirements (42%) are a leading contributor to burnout. Moreover, 91% of respondents say the burden of regulatory requirements is getting worse, 72% do not believe their organization is set up to minimize the time they spend on administrative tasks so they can focus on patient care, and 63% express feeling overwhelmed by administrative requirements and burdens on a weekly basis.

As a result of the myriad pressures on healthcare professionals, physicians are divided on where the industry is headed, with less than half (48%) saying they are optimistic about the future of U.S. healthcare and 52% saying they are not optimistic.

To read an in-depth report on the 2022 Physician Sentiment Survey, please click here.

Methodology

The results are based on a sample of 743 practicing physicians across specialties who completed an online survey between January 4 and January 26, 2022, in addition to 15 in-depth qualitative interviews with survey respondents.

About athenahealth, Inc.

athenahealth creates innovative healthcare technology that connects clinicians, patients, payers, and partners in differentiated ways. Our electronic health records, revenue cycle management, and patient engagement tools allow anytime, anywhere access, driving better financial outcomes for our customers and enabling our provider customers to deliver better quality care. In everything we do, we’re inspired by our vision to create a thriving ecosystem that delivers accessible, high-quality, and sustainable healthcare for all. For more information, please visit www.athenahealth.com.

About The Harris Poll

The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys in the U.S. tracking public opinion, motivations and social sentiment since 1963 that is now part of Harris Insights & Analytics, a global consulting and market research firm that delivers social intelligence for transformational times. We work with clients in three primary areas: building 21st-century corporate reputation, crafting brand strategy and performance tracking, and earning organic media through public relations research. Our mission is to provide insights and advisory to help leaders make the best decisions possible. To learn more, please visit www.theharrispoll.com.

Contacts

Nikki D’Addario

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Rob Julavits

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