Study: Burnout is a Public Health Crisis, Support and Easing EHR Usability Should Be the Focus

Sooner or later, the consequences of physician burnout will hit everyone where it hurts, a new study highlights.

The report from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Harvard Global Institute, the Massachusetts Medical Society, and the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association examines the many burdens today’s doctors face, often in the absence of adequate support. Further underscoring burnout’s status as an urgent and growing public health crisis, the researchers focus much of their attention on electronic health records (EHRs)—particularly the onerous demands they often create.

Electronic Medical Records

As we’ve previously discussed, the amount of time physicians spend inputting data into EHRs continues to be an issue for hospital leaders, healthcare regulators and, most important, the doctors themselves. Multiple studies released last year pointed to EHRs as the leading cause of burnout, listing strategies—such as dictation and transcription services—for decreasing EHR’s demands on physicians’ time.

Rather than taking a deep dive on specific EHR solutions, the Harvard study seeks to drive home the urgency of the issue. And in acknowledging similar studies, the researchers seek to add their voices to the swelling chorus demanding action.

Among the research they cite is the 2018 Survey of America’s Physicians Practice Patterns and Perspectives conducted by Merritt Hawkins on behalf of the Physicians Foundation, in which an astounding 78 percent of physicians reported feeling burnout at least some of the time. As the researchers note, no stakeholder escapes harm.

Physician burnout impacts patient health and well-being by increasing medical errors and decreasing patient experience scores. Likewise, a separate crisis emerges for hospitals as physicians cut back their hours.

According to the study, “every one-point increase in burnout (on a seven-point scale) is associated with a 30–40 percent increase in the likelihood that physicians will reduce their work hours in the next two years.” Beyond reshuffling the workload, the cost of recruiting and replacing a physician can range from $500,000 to $1 million, according to a 2017 report in JAMA Internal Medicine.

For their part, doctors continue to call for new strategies at every opportunity. As we quoted one surgeon last year, “Develop a better and more user-friendly EHR. It shouldn’t take 20 minutes to do something that dictation takes three minutes.”

For help understanding how a state-of-the-art dictation and transcription platform can deliver proven benefits to physician practices, hospitals, integrated delivery networks (IDNs) and medical transcription services organizations (MTSOs) of all sizes, as well as successfully integrate with leading EHR systems, read about Saince’s Doc-U-Scribe product or contact Saince.saince inc logo