EMRs and Patient Satisfaction

When it comes to keeping patients happy, EMRs matter, a new study suggests.

More patients are logging on to access their own records – and they tend to like it, according to data from research firms Aeffect and 88 Brand Partners. About 24 percent of patients have used EMRs for tasks such as checking test results, ordering medication refills and making appointments. And 78 percent of those patients reported being satisfied with their doctors, compared with 68 percent of those who hadn’t used EMRs.

“EMR users are telling us that they are more confident in the coordination of care they’re being provided, and think more highly of their doctors, simply because of the information technology in use,” Michael McGuire, director of strategy for Chicago-based 88 Brand Partners, said in a press release.

Patient satisfaction is fast becoming a top priority in health care as it determines a growing portion of providers’ reimbursement. So far, it’s mainly been an issue for hospitals. Their patient satisfaction survey results make up 30 percent of  their quality score in Medicare’s “value-based purchasing” program, part of the Affordable Care Act. In fiscal 2013, hospitals saw 1 percent of their Medicare reimbursement put at risk based on the overall score, which also considers performance on clinical measures. The figure will increase to 2 percent by fiscal 2017. Private insurers are also starting to link payments with quality scores.

The trend is now taking hold outpatient clinics, as well. About 2 percent of primary-care doctors’ compensation is tied to patient satisfaction measures, and the figure is likely to grow in coming years, according to a recent report from the Medical Group Management Association. Specialist physicians reported, on average, that 1 percent of their salary hinged on patient satisfaction.

Patients cited several reasons for preferring that their doctors use EMRs, according to the EMR Patient Impact Study from Aeffect and 88 Brand Partners. Among them were ease of access to information and the perceived clarity and thoroughness of communication that the records systems provide. And adoption rates could be set to go higher: 52 percent of survey respondents said they aren’t using an EMR yet, but would be interested in trying one. Only 18 percent said they had no interest.

A host of other factors, such as level of attention and ease of making appointments, also factored into patient satisfaction, according to the survey of 1,000 consumers. But for doctors who have implemented EMRs, getting their patients to log on might be a simple way to create a more loyal following. In many cases, according to the survey, EMR-using patients had adopted the technology after being encouraged by a physician.