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Doctors Face Information Overload

Doctors face information overload and yes this can affect you!

Electronic Health Records is the future of patient care.  EHR has the potential to decrease organizational deficiencies and provide a faster exchange of information among varying healthcare bodies which, in turn, would decrease unnecessary healthcare costs.  This would provide the patient with a higher quality of healthcare and produce a more informed healthcare advisor.  Common oppositions that EHR faces are usually in regards to patient security and privacy.  However, a study was conducted at a U.S. Veterans Hospital where they discovered “Information Overload” to be the primary concern in regards to EHR.

Concerns About Electronic Health Records

The VA Health Services Research and Development Center of Excellence study found nearly 30 percent of physicians surveyed reported missing lab results which led to a delay in patient care as a result (Seamans, Some Docs Miss Tests).  A physician receives electronic alerts when new patient information arrives via the EHR system.  The VA averages about 63 alerts in a day; 90 percent of physicians feel this to be an excessive amount and 70 percent of physicians felt the number of alerts received were too high and felt overwhelmed.  Many of the physicians felt that even with the use of current EHR, results could go unnoticed.

However, the news isn’t all grim regarding EHR. Researchers do say that those using an EHR system are susceptible to be overwhelmed with information.   As overwhelmed as they might feel, there is no connection with the EHR system itself.  Dr. Hardeep Singh, the study’s lead, said these issues would occur within in a paper system regardless and feels that EHR actually provides an improvement in the health record process.  Past research has shown physicians order fewer tests when EHR is being involved in the process.

The Positive Side: EHR Benefits

Time Magazine had an article discussing the many benefits obtained from EHR. The digitization of medical files allows for physicians to maintain a balanced work environment.  The article discusses how the trouble seen in the VA Health Service in Houston may not necessarily be a typical response. EHR is a complex system that does require greater attention; however, the benefits are great.  Dr. Bhakti Patel, former chief resident of University of Chicago Internal-Medicine, stated how conversion to iPads improved working conditions and patient care.  Due to the success all internal-medicine residents now receive an iPad at the start of the program (Sifferlin, One Third of Doctors).  John Hopkins, Yale and Stanford now all have a paperless iPad-based curriculum.

Dr. Singh is looking for ways to improve the program, including a way to weed out non-urgent alerts to cut down on overload.  A criterion must be established for those who should respond to important alerts otherwise improper guidelines will lead to incompetent healthcare.  Dr. Singh told Reuters Health that another aspect to change is the attitude among patients that “no news is good news,” adding that patients should feel comfortable asking for test results if their doctor doesn’t discuss them.

This is important advice for all patients to follow. Never be afraid to ask your doctor questions about test results, treatment plans, or any concerns you have. Being your own patient advocate means taking control of your own health care, and in order to do that you must know your test results whether the results be positive or negative.

Bottom Line: The best way to avoid the mishaps of providers with information overload is to have control of your own information.  Do this by….

1.       If you have a chronic condition you should

a.       Request copies of your medical records every quarter from your provider.

b.      Request a claim run from your payer (a listing of all services billed to your insurance company)

2.       If you have a new condition that requires monthly decisions in managing your care

a.       Request a copy of your records each month from each provider.

b.      Track all of your explanation of benefits from your insurance company

3.       If you do not have any specific condition you should

a.       Request a copy of your medical records every year

b.      Ask your insurance company to provide you a listing of all bills submitted to our insurance company.

Thanks for reading! Have a story to share? Feel free to send me a note at

Rebecca S. Busch, RN,
Healthcare Advocate

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