5 Ways to Reduce Physician Burnout Caused by EHRs

by:
on September 6, 2018

Are physicians at your practice spending too much time entering data into your electronic health records (EHR) system and managing administrative tasks rather than interacting with patients? If so, it’s highly likely that they’re becoming frustrated, and they could be on the brink of a burnout.

In a 2018 survey of more than 15,000 physicians from 29 specialties in the U.S., 56 percent said that too many bureaucratic tasks, such as charting and paperwork, is the top reason for burnout.

Reasons for Physician Burnout in the U.S.
Reasons for Physician Burnout in the U.S.
(Source)
Medical practices must find ways to reduce the burden and long hours of administrative tasks, or they risk high levels of physician burnout, which will result in poor job performance, fewer hours worked than required, a greater number of medical errors and even early retirement.

In this article, we offer a few, easy steps medical practices can take to lower the chances of physician burnout.

1. Train Physicians on a New EHR Early

Any disruption to the daily routine could be frustrating to physicians. Implementing and learning a new EHR, especially, can be cumbersome, so, when you select a new EHR, be prepared to deal with slow adoption and user resistance.

Medical practices should start training physicians on a new EMR soon after deciding to purchase it and not wait until after implementation.

This will help your practice avoid the stress of shifting to an unfamiliar system, while enhancing practice operations. Practices should also ensure that the training sessions are short, so they don’t take up a lot of the physicians’ time.

If you already have an EHR solution, your staff could be struggling to use it. Organize regular training sessions to inform your physicians about software updates and how to use new features. Here are a few more tips for the successful implementation of EHR training:

  • Select an internal EHR champion: To encourage use of a new EHR, ask one of your more tech-savvy physicians or staff members to coach or mentor the others. People may be more likely to reach out to a colleague than an external trainer.

    Gather feedback from your champion when implementing a new EHR; they’ll understand common challenges and preferred learning styles, which will help you improve training strategies. Before training, have your EHR champion discuss the solution’s benefits with the whole practice.

  • Set an easy-to-follow training calendar: Prepare a training calendar that will have minimal impact on physicians’ daily schedules. Make the training interactive by using videos, facilitating group discussions and encouraging questions to make physicians comfortable with the new EHR.
  • Create a support team for physicians: Soon after deploying the software, assemble a special support team for dedicated assistance to physicians. When not helping physicians, the team can provide patient care or do administrative tasks.
For best practices on EHR training for your staff, read our “Five Best Practices for Training Staff on Using a New EHR.”

2. Improve the EHR Login and Password Process

One thing that can really stress physicians out is having to type a password to open each new window in an EHR. Using a proximity password device that allows them to access the EHR without typing a password each time can really help to alleviate that added stress.

Also, be on the lookout for another common bad practice: staff sharing their individual EHR passwords with each other, especially nurses and interns. This can result in severe breach of patient data confidentiality, because multiple people could tamper with data without the physician’s knowledge.

Here are the major reasons why health care professionals do this:

    • They don’t have personal login credentials but need EHR access to complete individual work duties.

 

    • Their account permissions restrict them from doing specific tasks.

 

  • Technical login problems prevent them from accessing the EHR using their own credentials.

These issues increase frustration at work and slow down a practice’s operations. It also makes the practice highly vulnerable to data security breaches and lawsuits.

Therefore, medical practices and health care providers must make the process of getting EHR credentials for their staff easier and faster, by mandating the IT team to provide credentials to staff as soon as they’re hired. Also, make the staff aware that access is based on each user’s specific workflow and clearance level, so that they don’t share their details.

For more information on the importance of EHR security, check out “EHR Security Measures, Explained (Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Software).”

3. Hire a Scribe or Use Voice Recognition Software

Physicians can end up spending more time in front of computer screens than they do interacting with patients. This can adversely affect physician-patient relationships, which will harm the practice.

But you can fix this issue by hiring medical scribes, allowing physicians to spend more time with patients. Medical scribes record conversations and notes from each patient visit and offer a medical practice many benefits, including:

    • Reducing data entries, which gives physicians more time for patients, and lowers chances of burnout.

 

    • Decreasing patient wait times, which helps to improve the patient experience.

 

    • Facilitating more time for patients, which increases the practice’s profitability.

 

  • Eliminating medical errors in patient health records as scribes focus solely on accurate and detailed data entry.

However, not all practices can afford to hire a medical scribe. An alternative is to integrate voice recognition software with your EHR.

The software lets physicians dictate clinical documentation, which is automatically converted into digital notes and then stored in the EHR.

Voice recognition software does a pretty good job of capturing a physician’s speech and converting it into notes, but conversion errors are possible. Physicians need to understand the common challenges of using voice recognition software and put mechanisms in place to check for errors.

Google is developing voice recognition tools to capture medical conversations that can improve the EHR workflow. These tools can reduce physician stress and workload, lowering the chances of burnout.

To help you get familiar with the concept, here are a few EHR solutions that offer voice recognition and have the highest volume of reviews on Software Advice:

4. Use a Virtual Assistant As Often As Possible

Very often, it’s difficult for physicians to manage repetitive EHR-related tasks such as answering routine patient questions, messaging patients, sending prescription requests to pharmacies and repeatedly recommending primary treatment care that’s the same for all patients. These small and repetitive tasks reduce efficiency and likely lead to physician burnout.

Virtual assistant tools are a quick fix for this issue. Here’s how they benefit your practice:

    • Manage all EHR-related administrative tasks, streamlining various clinical workflows in a medical practice, such as medical staff scheduling, managing patient appointments, entering patient information into EHRs and more.

 

  • Free up physicians’ time so they can provide more dedicated and qualitative care to patients.

Nuance's virtual assistant
Nuance’s virtual assistant in action (Source)

The good news is that several EHR vendors are already adding virtual assistants to their offerings, so check with your vendor to find out whether they offer this capability.

For instance, Epic partnered with Nuance Communications to integrate Nuance’s Dragon Medical Virtual Assistant with Epic’s EHR solution. Similarly, athenaClinicals EHR users can use NoteSwift’s virtual assistant, Samantha, to automate their EHR documentation process.

With virtual assistants, physicians can spend more time with patients and make the best use of their skills to provide thoughtful and accurate patient care, so they’re less likely to face burnout.

For more on AI for small practices, check out “Artificial Intelligence Is Transforming IT for Small Medical Practices.”

5. Seek Out an EHR With a Specialty-Specific Interface

Another cause of physician burnout is trying to navigate complex EHR interfaces that aren’t exactly user friendly nor specific to the physician’s specialty.

Andrew Boyd, MD of University of Illinois Chicago notes that EHR interfaces are often clunky and aren’t necessarily designed to display data relevant to the physician’s specialty. He feels that when all the medical staff, regardless of specialty, works on the same EHR interface, it makes the workflow cumbersome.

Most interface issues are due to the usage of non-specialty EHR interfaces. In a non-specialized EHR solution, physicians could be clicking the mouse multiple times to finish one, small task. This can increase frustration over a long period of time, leading to physician burnout.

Specialty-specific EHR offers many benefits such as:

    • Eliminates tools and features you don’t need, which reduces confusion and makes daily EHR usage more efficient.

 

    • Enhances practice productivity by removing non-relevant steps with detail-oriented workflows in specialty-specific EHRs.

 

  • Boosts clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction; the more quickly physicians find information and go through the EHR workflow, the better care they can provide.

Thus, by choosing specialty-specific EHR interfaces that display only the relevant information, health care providers can enhance clinical efficiency and decrease physician burnout.

For advice on involving physicians in custom workflow design, check out the guide “New EHR Implementation? Involve Your Physicians.”

Recommendations: What to Do Next

As a health care provider, you have to work hard to avoid or eliminate physician burnout caused by EHR use. An easier-to-use EHR can help physicians be more efficient in providing patient care and dealing with their daily workload. It’ll lower the chances of stressful situations at your practice.

The five ways to reduce physician burnout from EHR use that we’ve discussed here are a good place to start to improve your physicians’ well-being. Here’s what to do next:

    • If you’re planning to implement the above methods with your existing EHR solution, talk to your current vendor and strategize an action plan. Work out a timeline to implement changes and share this news with your staff. This will help everyone prepare for the upcoming changes.

 

    • If your existing vendor doesn’t offer some of the features we’ve mentioned here, such as voice recognition software, virtual assistant integration or specialty-based interface design, call us at (844) 686-5616 for a free consultation with an EHR software advisor. They’ll thoroughly discuss your needs and offer you software suggestions that best fit your requirements.

 

  • If you’re new to EHR solutions, visit the EHR software page on Software Advice to know the top solutions. The buyer’s guide can help you identify your needs and the features that can help you improve your practice’s operations.

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