Solving the Burnout Problem

EHRs are a topic we seem to land on frequently.  This is in no small part due to the fact that they’re a constant point of discussion and contention at healthcare conferences around the country.  Computerworld reported last week on one of these conferences, the New England HIMSS Spring Conference.

The article’s headline is a bit shocking, that doctors are “slave[s]” to their EHR, derived from a quote by Dr. Alain Chaoui, who presented at the conference.  While the language used may be new, the refrain is similar: that EHR requirements are leading to physician burnout.  Dr. Chaoui pegged the number of physicians experiencing EHR burnout at 50-70%.

The usual problems of interoperability and scheduling are mentioned, but regulation is also playing a role in how these systems are used.  What was previously governed by the standard of meaningful use, providers now must attest as Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.  ACO standards add data depth as a consideration in quality measures, which keeps physicians tied to their computers even more.

All that being said, there is progress being made to ease the burden of the more troublesome aspects of EHRs.  Collaborative industry nonprofit projects are working to enact vendor-neutral frameworks, and increased adoption of FHIR for data communication will increase interoperability.

The article also highlights a real-world example of how a healthcare organization was able to reduce EHR-related physician burnout.  Reliant Medical Group, which transitioned from its own EHR to Epic, is a HIMSS Stage 7 organization.  They were able to reduce the necessary components of a successful EHR implementation to three things: buy-in, efficiency, and trust.

The focus on achieving these goals has been helped along by a dedication to interoperability.  Beyond just making sure their own locations can interact with one another, Reliant also gives EHR access to unaffiliated organizations that are treating the same patients as them.  They’ve also set up interfaces with hospitals directly, so their Epic instance is able to automatically receive patient’s reports coming from these hospitals, regardless of the EHR being used.

Reliant has also made the data handling process easier for its employees.  Not just physicians, but other trusted healthcare providers are able to enter data in a patient’s file, and the virtual “to-do” list has been reduced by flagging critically abnormal test results as opposed to results barely outside of the normal range that wouldn’t require attention.  Reliant has been able to reduce physician inbox tasks by 25% through the better routing of information.

So while burnout is still a hot topic in healthcare, there is reason for hope.  New interoperability standards and individual organizational focus on the issue have been proven to make a difference, and will keep doctors where they want to be; with their patients, not their computers.

About the Author: Chris Mack

Chris is a Marketing Manager at Extract with experience in product development, data analysis, and both traditional and digital marketing.  Chris received his bachelor’s degree in English from Bucknell University and has an MBA from the University of Notre Dame.  A passionate marketer, Chris strives to make complex ideas more accessible to those around him in a compelling way.