Physicians and Technology: Avoiding Burnout

Technology has played an increasingly larger role in the healthcare industry over the past couple decades and continues to offer a myriad of benefits to physicians and other healthcare professionals. It is intended to streamline workflow, reduce administrative burden and improve patient care, but when poorly designed, technology may increase stress for physicians.

This stress is part of a large problem in healthcare: physician burnout. Such burnout has been directly linked to negative consequences like lower patient satisfaction and care quality, higher medical error rates, malpractice risk, and physician and staff turnover.

Research Behind Physician Burnout

What are the primary reasons for this physician burnout? One is a healthcare industry focus on value-based care provided by a decreasing number of physicians. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) predicts a shortage of up to 105,000 doctors by 2030, including an estimated 43,000 in primary care. Another is the often time-consuming process of meeting Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requirements for quality and clinical reporting.

A third and probably biggest reason for this burnout is stress from utilizing health information technology (HIT), specifically electronic health record (EHR) systems. A recent study of 4,197 practicing physicians in Rhode Island in 2017 published by the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA) reported the following results:

  • Approximately 70 percent of respondents reported HIT-related stress, especially primary care physicians.
  • Physicians who reported marginal time for documentation were 2.8 times as likely to suffer burnout as those reporting ample time.
  • Doctors who spend large amount of time on EHRs at home had a 1.9 times greater chance of burnout.

Another survey conducted by the American Medical Association found that nearly half of a physician’s work day is spent on administrative work, primarily EHR data entry, while only 27 percent of their time is spent on direct clinical care. Many physicians often have too little time for documentation, utilize non-intuitive EHR user interfaces and have either not enough or too much data.

The consequences from physician burnout can be costly for the industry. Monetarily, physician burnout can cost the healthcare industry between $500,000 – $1 million per doctor, including direct costs due to medical errors and decreased patient satisfaction.

Assessing Implemented Technology

Fortunately, there are steps healthcare organizations can take to reduce the stress experienced by physicians who utilize technology in their daily work life, such as employing technology that facilitates ease of use and decreases the amount of time required in the system. The technology should also:

  • include clinically relevant data
  • offer physicians a seamless way to communicate with their colleagues
  • reduce the burden of repetitive data input
  • be integrated with other critical systems

Organizations should also develop metrics for a new technology to assess whether it supports or hinders physician workflow.

For physician burnout in general, keep physicians educated on the symptoms and risks of burnout, encourage them to seek help and provide resources for them to do so.

IRO Technology

AMR recognizes the value of technology that is user-friendly and efficient. Our portal offers an intuitive, secure and customizable platform to assist our clients and physician reviewers. We’ve developed features that support operations through fast processing, thorough quality assurance, and specialized reporting while streamlining the submission, tracking and reporting of reviews.

Dr. Charles Carnel, Medical Director at AMR, adds, “Here at AMR, we try to make the most efficient use of health information technology for our physician employees. Clinical information and documentation are all streamlined through our web interface. Years of development have led to a functional portal which we continue to improve.”

Learn more about Advanced Medical Reviews and the clients we serve.

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