Did EHRs Light the Physician Burnout Fuse?
The Mission: Impossible franchise, from the 1960s TV show through numerous Tom Cruise films, has gotten a lot of mileage out of the image of a long, burning fuse – it appears in the opening credits of every movie and episode. The message is clear: danger is in the offing, and something is about to blow.
The lit fuse is an apt metaphor for the now widely-recognized and well-documented problem commonly referred to as “physician burnout”. Something (or someone) is about to blow, and the damage could be widespread. While healthcare IT generally (and the hospital EHR specifically) is only one contributing factor to the problem, it is one that can be addressed today — and implementing the right solution can pay immediate dividends.
Currently, when a physician logs into an EHR, he or she sees the same information regardless of his or her area of practice, the disease state he or she is dealing with, or whether their patient is new or existing. This generic approach to presenting patient information can lead to the inability to find data and respond to test or lab results, delay orders, and fracture a provider’s train of thought.
In contrast, a well-optimized EHR is not one-size-fits-all. Rather, it presents data in a way that is consistent with each physician’s thought process and workflow and enables the physician to act on that information quickly and accurately.
The benefits to healthcare provider organizations are compelling. A well-designed clinician-facing information technology system can be a starting point for better patient care. Investing in the physician experience to reduce burnout (and the associated personnel turnover) and, ideally, to bolster patient referrals, can also lead to a stronger bottom line.
Extinguishing that lit fuse before it blows will be a win-win-win for all parties with a stake in the healthcare system.
[This post is adapted from a commentary authored by Christopher Maiona, M.D., PatientKeeper’s Chief Medical Officer, published recently in HIT Consultant.]