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11.07.2023

Neurology in practice: Navigating the burden of electronic health records in neurology practice

Electronic health records (EHRs) have revolutionized healthcare by digitizing patient information, enhancing data accessibility, and improving care coordination. In neurology practice, EHRs offer several advantages, including streamlined documentation and better access to patient histories. However, the widespread adoption of EHRs has also introduced challenges for neurologists. The amount of time a typical neurologist spends inputting information in electronic health records can vary depending on specific practice setting, patient volume, and the complexity of patient cases. Still, studies have shown that using EHRs has increased the time neurologists spend on documentation and administrative tasks.

  • Physicians spend an average of 2 hours on EHR and other desk work for every 1 hour of direct patient care. (Sinsky C, Colligan L, Li L, et al. Allocation of physician time in ambulatory practice: a time and motion study in 4 specialties. Ann Intern Med 2016;165(11):753-60.)
  • Physicians spend an average of 16 minutes per patient visit on EHR documentation, which can add up to several hours per day. (Overhage JM, McCallie D. Physician Time Spent Using the Electronic Health Record During Outpatient Encounters. Ann Internal Med. Available at: https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M18-3684.)

This post explores the evolving landscape of EHRs in neurology and strategies to alleviate their associated burdens.

The advantages of electronic health records

EHRs have undeniably improved the quality of patient care in neurology. They facilitate efficient data retrieval, reduce the risk of errors, and provide a comprehensive view of a patient's medical history. Neurologists can access test results, previous diagnoses, and treatment plans with just a few clicks, enabling more informed decision-making and enhancing patient safety.

Challenges in neurology practice

  1. Time-consuming documentation: The documentation burden in EHRs is a common concern among neurologists. Detailed and accurate records are crucial in neurology, but the time spent documenting can encroach on valuable face-to-face time with patients. This can affect the quality of the patient-provider relationship.
  2. Data entry and usability: EHRs often require neurologists to input a substantial amount of data, including patient histories, physical examinations, and treatment plans. The usability of EHR systems varies, and some may be less intuitive, leading to frustration and decreased efficiency.
  3. Interoperability challenges: Neurologists often collaborate with other healthcare providers and institutions. EHR systems may not always be seamlessly interoperable, leading to challenges in sharing patient data and ensuring continuity of care.
  4. Provider burnout: The increased administrative burden associated with EHRs can contribute to provider burnout. Neurologists may feel overwhelmed by the time spent on EHR-related tasks, impacting their overall job satisfaction and well-being.

Strategies to alleviate electronic health records burdens

  1. Optimize EHR workflow: Neurology practices should invest time in optimizing their EHR workflows. Customizing templates, utilizing voice recognition software, and delegating certain documentation tasks to support staff can help streamline the process.
  2. Training and education: Proper training and ongoing education are vital for neurologists and their teams to maximize the benefits of EHRs. Staying updated on system improvements and shortcuts can improve efficiency.
  3. Voice recognition and scribes: Implementing voice recognition technology and medical scribes can significantly reduce the time spent on data entry. Neurologists can dictate their notes, allowing them to focus more on patient interactions.
  4. Advocate for better EHRs: Neurologists can advocate for EHR systems that prioritize usability and interoperability. Engaging with EHR vendors and participating in feedback initiatives can drive improvements in EHR design.
  5. Mindful documentation: Encouraging neurologists to be mindful in their documentation can also alleviate the burden. Focusing on essential information and avoiding excessive detail can help save time.

Conclusion

Electronic health records have become an integral part of modern neurology practice, offering numerous advantages in patient care and data management. However, the burden associated with EHRs is a challenge that neurologists must address to maintain efficiency and ensure quality patient care. By optimizing workflows, investing in training and education, exploring technological solutions, and advocating for better EHR systems, neurologists can successfully navigate the EHR landscape, ultimately improving both their practice and patient outcomes.

MedLink acknowledges the use of GPT-4 in drafting this blog entry.

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