Physicians unhappy with an EHR system could pass that sentiment on to their patients — in the form of lower patient satisfaction scores, so says a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

That makes complete sense, of course. How many times have you expressed discontent about some object or form of technology only to see those same sentiments reflected in the attitudes of your spouse or partner, children or co-workers?

Your individual perceptions become other people’s reality, as long as your relationship with said person contains enough respect of them for you to be swayed by your opinions. This is the obvious case in most physician-to-patient relationships. What the doctor does or says has an impact on their patients, even if the effort is only subconscious.

For this particular study, the researchers examined how electronic health records were installed at OB-GYN practices, and the subsequent interactions with an inpatient perinatal and how the EHR impacted doctors’ satisfaction with the flow of clinical information and "patient feelings about their care."

What they found was the outpatient OB-GYN physician satisfaction increased with "automatic data flow from perinatal triage units, but they tended to be underwhelmed with the EHR’s impact on work processes. Patient satisfaction fell after the EHR was installed and did not rebound when the systems were integrated."

Alternatively, the outpatient OB-GYN providers were more satisfied with their access to information from the inpatient perinatal triage nurses once system capabilities included automatic data flow from triage back to the OB-GYN offices. However, researchers say that these same physicians were likely less satisfied with how the EHR affected their work than other clinical and nonclinical staff.

Per the report’s summary, patient satisfaction dropped after the initial EHR installation, and the researchers said they can we find "no evidence of increased satisfaction linked to system integration."

Likewise, researchers said that dissatisfaction of providers with an EHR system and difficulties incorporating EHR technology into patient care may negatively impact patient satisfaction. "Care must be taken during EHR implementations to maintain good communication with patients while satisfying documentation requirements," they said.

According to separate reporting from Healthcare Dive, EHRs may be leading to the burnout and professional decline of physicians.

In a cited Medscape survey, the site reports that more than half of U.S. doctors reported burnout and half of those said "computerization of work with electronic records" was partially to blame. Those with the highest burnout rates were family physicians, neurologists and OB-GYNs.

Another study in 2017 found that primary care doctors spend more than half their workday on EHR tasks, which impacts the doctor-patient relationship. Patients pickup on this disconnect, which doesn’t help their relationships with their caregivers, which, in turn, can create an even more stressful environment for physicians.

This dissatisfaction among patients further disconnects them from their physicians, the study suggests, with the patients viewing the technology that comes between them and their doctor negatively.