EMRs Still Leaving Functional Gaps For Users, Survey Says

Paper workarounds often fill the gaps in EMR functionality for quick internal messaging and reminders.

A study conducted by the Veteran Affairs Center for Innovations in Quality, Effectiveness and Safety recently found that 43% of over 2500 primary care providers nationwide reported using workarounds in addition to or instead of their EMR-based workflows for managing vital patient data like test results. While the results of this study are nothing new, and in fact follow many years of reports of providers relying on paper-based workflows, this new study did provide some additional insight into WHEN and WHY providers turn to pen and paper.


The study found that WHEN providers reported Limited Administrative Assistance, they were more likely to report using workarounds. Also, WHEN a provider reported that she or a colleague had personal experience missing important patient data in the past, they were more likely to rely on workarounds, presumably to ensure it didn’t happen again.

An in-depth review of rationale for WHY providers used workaround utilization yielded three main reasons:


Though providers are accustomed (sometimes too much so) to the continuous beeps and buzzes of medical devices, EMRs lack the ability for users to set their own future alerts or reminders in a way that makes tracking easier.  While an EMR has the ability to display hundreds of patient records spanning years and years of care, EMRs do not surface the context-specific highlights of that dense data, leaving providers on their own to manage their specialty-specific, patient-specific or day-specific “To Do” lists elsewhere – like on a Post-It.


Changes happen fast.  Patients can become ill, need intervention, and escalate from urgent to emergent in a matter of minutes.  The fast pace of technology and patient care makes a clunky, slow documentation system virtually unusable.  Shortcuts that smart enable decision support, quick action, and accurate and timely exchange of information are simply not available within EMRs today, resulting in workarounds like provider-to-provider texts, vital signs jotted down on gurney sheets, and other “quick and dirty” methods of communication.


Additionally, any note communicated in a patient record in the EMR is auditable under HIPAA and other patient care regulations, so the documentation of those internal provider-to-provider or provider-to-self reminders in the EMR are often specifically discouraged. At the same time, due to the same regulations, documentation of patient information is also discouraged OUTSIDE of the EMR, in more unsecured formats such as email. Without a designated place to communicate these notes, it is no wonder providers turn to paper and pen.

The researchers concluded that innovations are still needed to provide a solution suite that will meet the needs of care providers. Find out how Sequence eases the functional gaps left behind by EMRs by attending our next webinar on Thursday, August 11 at 2 PM EST. Register today!

HayleEMRs Still Leaving Functional Gaps For Users, Survey Saysy Kenslea, Director, Product Management

Hayley ensures that our technology delivers for clinicians, patients, and systems by coordinating the work of our technical teams and client services.

Our product knowledge expert and workflow engineer for Pathways and Call Center services, she joined Sequence Health with almost 10 years of experience in physician practice management, workflow re-engineering, and EMR and BI optimization.

Hayley earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology & Global Health from Emory University and a Master’s in Healthcare Administration from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.