Physician burnout is a major problem.
Ranging between being termed ‘a public health crisis’ to an ‘epidemic’, physician burnout is evidently a problem seeing that a staggering 44% of physicians in the US say they are burned out.
Physician burnout isn’t the result of one or two issues, but certain factors in the workflow can have a major impact in driving it up — or if resolved, lowering it significantly.
One of those factors is the electronic health record (EHR) system.
How EHR is Driving Physician Burnout Statistics
There is a link between EHR systems and physician burnout.
First, according to a study by Stanford Medicine (via PR Newswire), 71% of physicians said that EHR problems “greatly contribute to physician burnout.”
Second, another study — this time by the Massachusetts Medical Society — found that ‘poorly designed’ EHR systems were forcing physicians to do tasks that didn’t benefit patients, and that was “contributing to a growing epidemic of physician burnout.”
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How that link manifests varies between healthcare organizations — no two are necessarily the same in terms of EHR-related issues. Below, we’ve compiled the common EHR issues, though it’s worth noting that a specific healthcare organization need not suffer from all of them.
Not Enough Time with Patients
Physicians are finding that they are spending less time on patients and, instead, more on tedious tasks on their EHR system, such as data entry.
Difficulty Using the EHR System
Notable complaints about EHR systems include “counterintuitive workflows, poor interfaces, bloated clinical documentation, and too many unhelpful alerts.”
Lack of Interoperability Between EHR Systems
On average, most hospitals use at least 10 EHR systems each. If one factors in how each EHR system has its own workflow, documentation and user interface, it becomes clear why many physicians in the US are finding it difficult to efficiently work with EHRs.
In fact, healthcare organizations reported that in the first month of implementing EHR, they had productivity losses of 20%. Fortunately, this figure dropped to 5% by the third month and would then return to normal levels thereafter.
Insufficient IT Infrastructure
Technical constraints such as slow internet speeds, lack of data storage space, and old PCs can result in EHR problems, such as slow loading speeds and data entry errors.
How Fixing EHR Could Stop Physician Burnout
Certain solutions, such as interoperability between different EHR platforms, is out of the control of the healthcare organization. Progress in this respect will depend on the EHR industry and its vendors, and it may be years before it materializes.
However, interoperability isn’t the only EHR issue. EHR usability is also a factor.
In a study published by the JAMA Network in March 2018, Dr. Raj M. Ratwani (PhD, MA) had defined ‘EHR usability’ as “the extent to which a clinician can safely, efficiently, effectively, and satisfactorily use an electronic health record or any technology for that matter.”
EHR is Supposed to a Physician Asset, Not an Obstacle
Interestingly, EHR usability can be addressed before your organization implements EHR.
For example, with an EHR readiness assessment, you can identify existing weaknesses in your IT assets, such as on-premise server storage, processes, computers, etc.
The assessment will equip you to not only prevent technical EHR issues, such as slow loading speeds or application crashes, but ensure that your clinicians’ concerns and observations are being addressed right from the onset.
For example, it would not be a good idea to deliver alerts to staff who would prefer not being distracted while they access, read, and/or update patient information. In this case, alerts will merely serve to hamper staff productivity and stress your clinicians.
Now if you already have an EHR system, then rest assured, you can take steps to fix usability issues there as well. In this case, you would need to implement an EHR optimization plan.
This could involve identifying why your EHR loading speeds are slow or why applications are frequently crashing. You can then address the bottlenecks — e.g., slow internet connectivity or old PCs — directly by replacing your legacy hardware.
You can also align your EHR to match the workflow your clinicians want by reconfiguring it (e.g., by removing alerts if your clinicians do not want them).
Be it new EHR implementation or EHR optimization, when dealing with IT infrastructure, you would be best served to consult an expert.
There are managed service providers (MSP) in the market that understand how hospitals and clinics work in terms of their workflows and technical needs.
These MSPs can advise you on selecting the right systems as well as install, configure and maintain them while you focus on delivering quality healthcare to your patients.
With the experience of implementing 1,000+ successful healthcare IT projects in the past 14 years, working with True North will let you leverage proven experience in implementing and optimizing EHR. We’ll help you prevent burnout among your clinicians. Contact us today.