Inefficiencies in EHR Systems Can Cause Healthcare Worker Burnout

healthcare worker burnout

Burnout in the healthcare industry is real—and it’s significant.

A KFF/Washington Post Frontline Health Care Workers Survey found that 55 percent of front-line healthcare workers stated they’ve experienced burnout, which was defined as “mental and physical exhaustion from chronic workplace stress” during the pandemic. The youngest group (aged 18 to 29) reported this in the highest numbers (69 percent). Sixty-two percent of healthcare workers experienced mental health repercussions from this stress with the youngest group again reporting the highest numbers: 75 percent. Plus, twenty-six percent of hospital healthcare workers feel angry with 29 percent of them considering leaving the field altogether.

In the Association of American Medical Colleges, this is summed up as “warning signs of a smoldering epidemic of burnout among front-line medical professionals.” It also notes that “As the threat of COVID-10 wanes, healthcare workers are burned out and suffering.”

Healthcare executives are also feeling burned out. During the last six months of 2022, 75 percent of surveyed healthcare executives reported burnout symptoms.

Solutions clearly must be multifaceted and can include restructuring teams to provide relief for physicians and other hard-hit professionals; executives advocating for their medical teams among others; providing emotional support resources; and allowing time off for important occasions.

Burnout solutions can rarely be successfully managed by just the person experiencing symptoms. They’ll need support to get through the experience. Said another way by an AMA member, “support over stress equals resilience.” She notes how people who work in healthcare are inherently resilient but, “When stress levels are going up and support doesn’t change, resiliency or that ability to maintain resilience will go down.”

Types of needed support include social, emotional, and technological. So, it’s essential to take a second look at your EHR system.

EHR Design Elements That Correlate With Wellbeing

During the pandemic, the American Medical Association (AMA) has kept a finger on the pulse of its members, keeping track of their well-being. However, COVID has added to their stress, and less-than-optimal EHR systems continue to contribute to their frustration as well.

In a 2019 report, seven EHR design elements were found to closely correlate with a lack of physician well-being. They are:

  • Information overload
  • Slow system response times
  • Excessive data entry
  • Inability to navigate the system quickly
  • Note bloat
  • Fear of missing something
  • Notes geared toward billing, not patient care

When physicians feel overwhelmed by burnout and feel as though they’re spending time on too much data entry instead of patient care, the consequences can be quite significant. Doctors are all too often retiring or going part-time when feeling burnt out and its causes aren’t addressed.

When considering how to solve the EHR problem, it may help to look at what physicians have traditionally appreciated about EHR systems:

  • Ready access to information, including historical information
  • Ability to share information with other professionals
  • The ability of patients to directly access their medical records and be more informed

So, at its simplest, goals are to address the issues that frustrate healthcare workers and further enhance what is most useful, providing the necessary support along the way.

Baseline Data: Physician Time with EHRs

One in-depth study from 2020, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, notes how physicians spent an average time of sixteen minutes and fourteen seconds with each encounter with the EHR system. Broken down, this involved chart review (33 percent), documentation (24 percent), and ordering (seventeen percent); multiply this by the number of patients a doctor would see daily, and this time can be significant.

The study—which uses data from 100 million patient encounters by 155,000 physicians in 417 health systems—notes that EHR time spent could vary by specialty. Perhaps this helps to explain the varying degrees of EHR satisfaction by specialty. Regardless of specifics, though, one message comes through loud and clear: physicians want more streamlined EHR systems.

EHR Optimizations to Streamline Workflows

Optimization makes sense as a key solution, but how? How should an EHR system be optimized? One way is to strategically use clinical decision support optimizations for physicians—in ways that truly support them rather than adding information that’s overwhelming or not relevant. It’s especially important not to over-give data to a physician who’s already feeling burnout.

Plus, it’s crucial to integrate data from multiple sources into a cohesive whole. For example, information about telehealth visits and in-office ones must be blended appropriately into a single patient’s record. If a physician has to review each type separately, this adds significantly to the number of clicks required and work performed. Data collected from patient wearables should also seamlessly fit into the real-time records viewed by physicians.

Although this next idea doesn’t directly impact the number of physician clicks required, having a quality patient portal can streamline the flow of information for all parties. Physicians and their patients can communicate through them and otherwise use them to monitor medical diagnoses, lab test results, prescriptions, and treatments.

In some cases, EHR implementation support for a new system will be required to get the efficiencies you want and need to prevent burnout and work more efficiently and effectively to continue to provide world-class patient care. Other times, optimizing your current system is the best solution. In either case, we can help.

HealthTECH Resources: Optimal EHR Consulting and Support

Whether your healthcare organization needs an EHR consulting company to analyze your current application and determine if it needs to be further optimized—or if a different system may be optimal—please contact us online or call (602) 903-7961.

Our highly experienced leadership and deep network of specialists are here to help, and we can rapidly have just the right experts on your site. Areas of expertise include EHR implementation support plus professional integration, optimization, training, process documentation, project management, go-live and post-live support, and more.

Here at HealthTECH Resources, we are an EHR consulting company that is the most knowledgeable in the industry! Let’s discuss the technology-based relief you need to ease the burnout of your clinicians through highly efficient, cost-effective solutions.