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Beyond the Focus Group: Understanding Physicians' Barriers to Electronic Medical Records

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Background: Although electronic medical records (EMRs) have potential to improve quality of care, physician adoption remains low. Rhode Island physicians' perceptions of barriers to EMRs and the association between these barriers and physician characteristics were examined. It was hypothesized that physicians with and without EMRs would differ in the types and magnitude of barriers identified.

Methods: Data were drawn from the Rhode Island Department of Health's mandatory 2009 Physician Health Information Technology (HIT) survey of physicians licensed and in active practice in Rhode Island or an adjacent state. Some 1,888 (58.1% of the target population of 3,248 physicians) responded. Respondents, who were invited to provide open-ended comments, were asked to consider 11 issues as barriers to EMR use: Access to technical support, lack of computer skills, availability of a computer in the appropriate location, impact of a computer on doctor–patient interaction, lack of interoperability, privacy or security concerns, start-up financial costs, ongoing financial costs, technical limitations of systems, training and productivity impact, and lack of uniform industry standards.

Results: Respondents with EMRs consistently perceived significantly fewer barriers than those without them (p < .0001). For example, 78.9% of physicians without EMRs viewed start-up financial costs as a major barrier versus only 45.8% of physicians with EMRs.

Conclusions: An understanding of physicians' reluctance to use EMRs is critical for developing adoption strategies. Policies to increase EMR adoption should be tailored to different physician groups to achieve maximum effectiveness. Further research into the differences between current EMR users' and nonusers' perceptions of barriers may help elucidate how to facilitate subsequent adoption.

Document Type: Short Communication

Publication date: April 1, 2012

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  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president for the Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission, is the inaugural editor-in-chief of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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