Nurses Have Love-Hate Relationship With EMRs

Data collected by a nursing degree program suggests that nurses have a love-hate relationship with EMRs, one which acknowledges many flaws but also suggests some degree of satisfaction.

The data, which was gathered by Adventist University of Health Sciences RN to BSN Online Program, offers a window into how nurses feel about hospital EMRs. And much of what they feel doesn’t reflect well on hospital EMRs.

For example, the graphic notes that in 2014, 92% of nurses were dissatisfied with EMR they had to use. Eighty-four percent said the EMR disrupted workflow and productivity, and 85% complained of “continually flawed” EMR systems. In other words, not only did they see their EMRs as flawed, they saw it as broken.

And these weren’t just vague expressions of discomfort. Ninety percent of nurses surveyed by the study said that EMR is negatively impacting interactions between nurses and patients, a fairly concerning claim. What’s more, 94% said that EMRs had failed to improve communication between nurses and doctors.

On top of everything else, a large percentage (88%) blamed high-ranking hospital administrators staff for selecting cheap systems. Isn’t it great to hear that EMR rollouts are alienating nurses as well as doctors? Just lovely.

On the other hand, surprisingly, 71% of nurses told a different study that they would not consider going back to paper-based medical records. Also, in other research, 72% agreed that EMRs help to improve patient safety and avoid medication errors, and 73% felt that EMR’s were enabling collaboration with other clinicians inside their organizations.

Looking at this collection of data, a few things stand out:

  • Generally speaking, nurses seem more comfortable with EMRs than physicians, more of whom seem to feel that EMR systems create obstacles to providing good care. But they’re frustrated nonetheless.
  • Too many nurses seem concerned that their EMR is glitchy technically. This should worry hospital administrators, because even if this perception is false, it’s a real problem if nurses believe that they can’t provide adequate care using the system.
  • Given that more than two-thirds of nurses responding to one study wouldn’t go back to paper, clearly some hospitals are doing things right (or at least paper was even worse than EHR).

Of course, nurses don’t develop ideas about EMRs in a vacuum. Hospitals can do a great deal to help nurses become comfortable with their new or upgraded EMR, such as enlisting the support of the chief nursing officer in any rollouts that take place and appointing nurses as EMR champions along with physicians. Not to mention ensuring appropriate training even after go-live.

Also, hospitals can do much to set appropriate expectations for EMR use. For example, I’d wager that few hospital IT leaders see EMRs as a particularly apt tool for supporting collaboration (though they might hope that it becomes so in the future). Being clear to nurses as to what they can realistically expect to do with an EMR — and what future features might be — makes it more likely that they’ll appreciate what the system can actually do. Like anybody else, if a nurse knows what they’re getting into with an EMR system, they are more likely to be on board.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.