Targeting EHR Satisfaction for Physician Wellness - Cover

Targeting EHR Satisfaction for Physician Wellness

I knew I would never be bored as a doctor. 

I have held many different positions in my career at SUNY Upstate in Syracuse. Two years ago, I became the President of the Medical Staff, and that was when I really noticed the distress that our physicians were in. We needed more responsiveness and functionality from our EHR.

Our organization switched over pretty successfully to Epic around 2011. We started with computerized order entry and were met with new challenges every step of the way. I’m sure that is common everywhere. Thankfully, we had successful training and readiness as we continued to do releases in phases throughout the organization. 

Today, everything is live and functioning smoothly, and we continue to strive for improvement. That is where our association with KLAS and the Arch Collaborative comes in.

Improving Ongoing Training for Physician Wellness 

I have been aware of KLAS for some time. About a year and a half ago, around 20% of my time was assigned as a physician advisor to the EHR team. I’m just an average EHR user, so in that advisory role, I began to read some of the material from the Arch Collaborative Learning Center.

With that in mind, I, along with a trainer and an analyst, attended the most recent in-person Eastern Arch Collaborative Summit. We had a wonderful time; it was a great meeting. I loved that the KLAS experts went around and talked with the groups and that the teams were given the time to work together to come up with a plan to improve EHR satisfaction. I came back to SUNY Upstate very enthused.

We had done our first Arch Collaborative survey last October, and we knew we needed to do more training and to better engage physicians. In January and February of this year, we were making really strong plans to incorporate all sorts of different training strategies we had learned about at the summit. We are pretty good in our onboarding training, but we knew we needed to up our game for our ongoing training. 

Then, of course, we were completely waylaid by COVID-19. Though many of our plans are on pause, during the height of the COVID-19 crisis, we did install, onboard, and functionalize voice recognition software for everyone. This was by far the biggest comment category on our 2019 Arch Collaborative survey. In April 2020, we solicited for power users and gathered about 40 doctors to be resources for their departments and clinics. By June, all the medical staff members were on board, and I have gotten nothing but positive comments about the advantages of voice recognition in the EHR.

I am eager to see our survey results this year because I know there is more that we can do. Improving EHR satisfaction is not the whole solution to physician wellness and burnout by any means, but improving it helps get us to where we would like to be in terms of making the workplace more friendly.

Why Have a Chief Wellness Officer?

With SUNY Upstate’s expanded focus on clinician wellness over the past year, I have recently become the hospital’s inaugural Chief Wellness Officer.

The history of Chief Wellness Officers doesn’t go back too far. Dr. Tait Shanafelt was the first-ever Chief Wellness Officer with Mayo Clinic. Now he is at Stanford and runs the premier training program for Chief Wellness Officers. 

We were fortunate enough to have Dr. Shanafelt come present at SUNY for our annual medical staff meeting in October 2019. The following day after a four- or five-hour personal consultation with him, all the institutional leaders got the message about the benefits of the Chief Wellness Officer position.

There are many reasons to have a Chief Wellness Officer. The first reason is to have a leadership position for someone whose purpose is to think about the wellbeing of the medical staff members and other staff members. Then, of course, there is a cost concern; burnout and departures cost an enormous amount of money. 

Burnt-out physicians don’t provide the same quality of care that more satisfied physicians do. Burnout can let people’s filters down. Their implicit biases become explicit biases toward colleagues, coworkers, and patients, and that can be really harmful in many ways. We have a moral imperative to care for our physicians’ wellness and satisfaction. We need to protect our precious resources and provide for the public health of everybody now and in the future. If we were out of doctors and other clinical practitioners, we wouldn’t be able to do that.

A Great Place to Work

My goal as Chief Wellness Officer is to have every member of the medical staff be happy coming to work every day. I want the staff members to feel like they are connected to the work that they set out to do when they decided to enter the field. I want to improve their sense of wellbeing, reduce their turnover rate, and make them feel like they work in a great place. We have a few clinics where people feel that way now, and I want to make sure that everyone has that experience.

Making the EHR one of the main focuses of the physician wellness initiative is really important to me. The problem is that a lot of times, the issue is not actually with the EHR but with the workflows we have put in place. This is a huge task that requires input from many departments, but my job is to advocate for making some of the changes that will help.

I really appreciate KLAS’ Arch Collaborative because of the ability it gives me to learn from other organizations, benchmark our organization, and set goals. That is aspirational work that helps us all.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock, Blue Planet Studio