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5 ideas to reduce physician burnout caused by EMRs

From training to EMR integration, these are steps physicians can take to lessen feelings of burnout.

Male doctor experiences physician burnout

Physician burnout has become a major healthcare industry concern, affecting nearly half (44 percent) of U.S. physicians, according to Medscape, and costing the system an estimated $4.6 billion a year, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

According to Medscape, physicians attribute the cause of burnout — which is characterized by emotional exhaustion, cynicism toward one’s job, and lack of personal efficacy — to administrative tasks, long work hours, and electronic health or medical records (EHR/EMR). In fact, seven out of 10 primary care physicians agree that EHRs greatly contribute to physician burnout, and almost six out of 10 think EHRs need a complete overhaul, according to a poll conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Stanford Medicine.

Although physicians are often at the mercy of their EHR or EMR solution provider when it comes to system improvements, there are ways physicians can improve their experiences with their EHR or EMR to lessen frustration and reduce burnout.

Fight EMR-related physician burnout with these tips

1. Take advantage of EMR training

Wherein most technology is implemented to increase efficiency, physicians have long complained about their EMR’s ease of use. A report by Medical Economics shows that 61 percent of doctors believe their use of an electronic record has a negative impact on efficiency and productivity. Among primary care physicians, 72 percent think that improving EHRs’ user interfaces could address challenges with their software, according to the Harris/Stanford Medicine poll.

However, an analysis in Applied Clinical Informatics suggests that a lack of training is to blame for physician dissatisfaction. The research found that the single greatest predictor of user experience is the quality of the training they received, regardless of the EHR being used. 

Dedicating a few hours of your time every month to learn how to best use your EHR or EMR can increase your efficiency and your confidence using the system. While you wait for EHRs to become more user-friendly, you can reduce your risk or levels of physician burnout by increasing your comfort with the software. A little goes a long way: A study by KLAS showed that organizations that required new physicians to complete more than six hours of training generally reported higher levels of satisfaction with their EHRs.

Check out: 3 signs your front office staff is burnt out — and how to help

2. Share your feedback with your EMR solution provider

A good software company has a strong customer support team to assist you in training and how to get better use of the software. Keeping in contact with your solution provider can give you access to quick tips to make your processes more efficient.

Because their success as a company depends on your general satisfaction with the product, your EMR or EHR company is invested in hearing your feedback. Software companies often prioritize common feature requests from customers in their product roadmaps. Making a request or sharing your difficulties with the system can help improve the product for you and your peers in the long term.

3. Search for software solutions that offer EMR integration

Make your EHR work better for your needs by pairing it with a software solution. Implementing software with an EMR integration can improve your practice efficiency and reduce your workload by automating certain tasks. Some EMR integrations can show patients your real-time availability online and allow them to receive appointment reminders by automatically syncing appointments booked to your calendar. Certain EMR integrations also allow you to send post-appointment patient feedback requests to help enhance your online reputation.

Automating your front office can help reduce your and your staff’s workload, freeing up your time to focus on patient experience and care. PatientPop integrates with more than 60 EMRs, EHRs, and practice management systems. Our EMR integration helps practices increase bookings and boost online reputation.

Podcast: Understanding PatientPop integration

4. Designate an EMR champion at your practice

More than one-third of physicians with burnout said that long work hours contributed most to their feelings of burnout, according to Medscape. Rather than adding more work to your plate, it may help to delegate best practices and process improvement related to your EMR to a member of your staff.

Designate someone who is responsible for learning the software, ensuring consistency of use at your practice, and ensuring everyone is properly trained. This can help you improve the overall efficiency of your EMR system without adding more for you to do.

Related: How to attract and retain patients by focusing on your front office staff

5. Adopt a team approach to documentation

Physicians often feel that the use of an EHR takes away from building relationships with their patients. The Medical Economics report found that more than half of providers felt EHRs negatively affected the physician-patient relationship. Among primary care physicians, 69 percent said using an EHR takes valuable time away from patients and 74 percent said using an EHR increased total daily work hours, according to the Harris/Stanford Medicine poll.

Shifting some of the data collection to nurses or medical assistants can help you stay focused on your patients and reduce your risk of physician burnout. This is a process referred to as team documentation. The Department of Family Medicine at the University of Colorado saw a significant drop in physician burnout rates after adopting a team model, as documented in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Check out: How to maximize time with patients by boosting practice efficiency

If all else fails, maybe it’s time to consider a new EHR system. Although switching your EHR can present a significant challenge, it may be worth exploring if you’re suffering from extreme physician burnout caused by your EHR/EMR. You can also use the ideas presented here to help you evaluate a better EHR for your practice — one with a good support team, training resources, and that presents the opportunity for an EMR integration.

Think your burnout may be caused by another stressor? Check out our webinar “Battling burnout: How to overcome doctors’ everyday problems” for tips on how to deal.

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