With the federal government’s push for Health IT, the focus has largely been on physicians’ adoption of EHRs. While this is the target audience who must purchase and implement these systems, many other health care professionals will be using the systems and they often seem to be left out of the EHR discussion. We may have an idea of what physicians think about EHRs, but what about nurses? A new study shows RNs are on the fence about whether or not EHRs positively or negatively affect healthcare quality and patient safety. The study was conducted by AFT Healthcare, a subsidiary of the American Federation of Teachers.

The survey of 604 RNs found split results on how EHRs are viewed by nurses: 49% of RNS answered that EHRs had a positive effect on quality of care, and 47% responded that it had a negative effect or no effect at all. Only 27% reported that EHRs actually improved patient care, and 25% said it actually worsened patient care.

In addition, nurses’ EHR woes are affecting their health and wellbeing; nearly 50% indicated that EHRs increased stress levels. 50% also thought EHRs increased the amount of time spent on patient chart documentation. These results may paint a negative picture of EHRs from the nurses’ perspective, but nurses did report that EHRs reduced medication errors and improved care coordination. These are two very important national objectives for EHR adoption and meaningful use.

Interestingly, the negative results were not reflective of the actual EHR technology, but how it was implemented and how much support was offered before and after EHR implementation. The recommendations that came out of this survey include adding clinical staff for extra support during EHR implementation; offering continuous training and support to learn the EHR system; and involvement of clinical nursing staff throughout the entire EHR selection, planning, training, and implementation phases.

This study shows that it will be important to collect data from both physicians and nurses on EHR implementation. Nurses will interact with an EHR differently than a physician, and their views should be equally as important. For EHR implementations to be successful it will be critical to garner the support from nurses and others who interact heavily with the EHR in direct patient care.