Healers Need Healing: Make EHR That Relieves Physician Burnout


A combination of factors causes clinician burnout: malpractice concerns, administrative burden, regulatory challenges, unregulated work hours, and an aging population with overwhelming pressure and not enough caregivers. A part of burnout is linked to poor digital solutions that clinicians have to use; the most frustrating tool in contributing to clinician burnout is the EHR.  

As healthtech leaders, the least we can do is to help you make EHR usable and helpful, instead of confusing, time-consuming and aggregating. 

Let us dive in. 

Bad EHR design leads to burnout

Greater use of the EHR and other information technology during clinical care is associated with more clinician burnout. In an observational study of 57 physicians in four specialties, 47. 2 percent of clinic time was spent on the EHR and desk work, nearly double the amount of time spent doing direct patient care tasks.

Another study showed that poor EHR usability contributed to “significantly higher odds” of burnout, job dissatisfaction, and “intention to leave” among nurses compared to hospital staff using more user-friendly EHR. 

Clinician burnout is a common problem in the healthcare industry and contributes to physician turnover, which affects patient care. Many of the challenges associated with health information technology affect professional well-being. These issues include using healthcare IT tools, poor integration with clinical workflows, and difficulty sharing information between team members and environments. Let’s look at the reasons behind insufficient EHR and what you can do to prevent clinician burnout. 

Why EHR Go Wrong

Physicians believe that a well-performing EHR will increase their productivity at work by improving physician-patient communication (via patient portals), improving access to patient data, and facilitating the delivery of quality care. It reports that good EHR can improve satisfaction. However, understanding how EHR-related activities contribute to burnout is a prerequisite for developing solutions.

Every time a new system is implemented, healthcare organizations must resolve issues. However, some things about EHR make it particularly difficult for doctors compared to other workers.

  • The sheer volume of data that needs to be recorded is overwhelming;
  • The amount of time required for each entry is extensive;
  • The number of errors or omissions that can occur is high;
  • The ability of physicians to delegate tasks varies depending on their clinic or hospital’s policies; 
  • There are few opportunities for feedback or support from peers or colleagues about how best to use these systems effectively.

The medical record was once a simple tool—a way to document the treatment of a patient and help them get the care they need.

Today, it’s become a burden on doctors, nurses, and support staff. It’s been filled with data from insurance companies, quality assurance departments, and corporate initiatives.

The EHR is supposed to make things easier for clinicians. But instead, it makes them feel like they’re drowning in data that doesn’t matter—and can’t be entered into the EHR because of its incompatibility with other systems.

It’s time for healthcare leaders to start thinking about what matters: patient care and leave the data transcribing to the IT department.

How to do EHR right:

If the tool is easy to use and makes life easier, clinicians would like to use it more. Here is what makes EHR application better:

  1. Easy access to data & a user-friendly experience;
  2. Simple and intuitive user experience;
  3. Automation of mundane tasks and streamlines work without increasing physical or cognitive workload;
  4. Easy interoperability, aka transfer of information to and from other organizations and clinicians;
  5. No unanticipated downtime.

What can the IT department do to prevent clinician burnou

Take care of user experience

Clinicians are the primary users of the software, so making the experience as smooth as possible is essential.

Certain activities exist to take care of this problem. For example, the Arch Collaborative is a group of healthcare organizations committed to improving the EHR experience. It started with a notice that two organizations using the same EHR could have different experiences. Research shows that satisfied EHR users have three opportunities:

  • Personalized  experience;
  • Having a voice in EHR governance;
  • Having experience with EHR solutions to feel comfortable with it. 

Let AI take over documentation

Some solutions can take care of documentation for clinicians. For example, through voice-enabled AI solutions, clinicians can document patient records accurately and efficiently at the point of care. Solutions like that can bring the clinician back to what matters to him, a one-to-one contact with a patient and designing the treatment, instead of recording it all in EHR.

Additionally, AI can help you sort through health data collected over the years to make it usable for Real-World evidence and open source research (more in this article.)

Make it a team effort & support the users

EHR can be a real test for clinicians and the whole organization. Because doctors and software engineers (IT) both play a role in developing software that helps doctors do their job, they should each be responsible for a part of it. 

Make sure that health IT leaders have a way to engage with clinicians, and think of creating personalized training for physicians, so they can be efficient and prevent unnecessary stress.

Make it interoperable. Really

Organizations must take a careful, thoughtful approach to technology and its use. The publication notes that healthcare organizations must make clever acquisitions of interoperable technology. Suppose organizations are unnecessarily conservative in their interpretation of the requirements. In that case, the extra work to fulfill them will needlessly add to clinicians’ administrative burden in their daily work. HIPAA, for example, is often cited as one federal law interpreted with significant variability across institutions.

Consider bringing it out to system-level changes

It might be that the problem lies more profound than just EHR. In this case, redesigning the workflow or improving communication between physicians and other healthcare team members can help.

So what’s next?

A part of clinician burnout can be relieved through a high-quality user experience, a feedback system, IT support and personalized education for clinicians, and solutions like AI-powered voice recording tools to track data in EHR. However, burnout is a complex issue that shows that the problem may lie deeper and be more difficult than just a software issue, although it does matter because of day-to-day interactions.

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