Physician Burnout

The Impact of the EMR on Physician Burnout

It’s interesting to see what topics break the veneer of professionalism that those in healthcare IT have online. For example, I recently saw an exchange on social media between a journalist and a doctor get increasingly heated. The topic? Physician burnout.

I can’t say I was surprised that this subject was the one to create a stir. As Health IT professionals we can debate interoperability, population health strategy and even discuss FHIR without getting hot-headed. But physician burnout, while deeply entangled in IT, is a human problem at its core.

The diagnosis for this problem isn’t a rosy one. Between 45–55% of physicians recently surveyed reported that they felt burnt out at work, with ED physicians experiencing the highest rates of burnout.

KLAS is always looking to impact the world’s healthcare. Often, our impact feels more circular than direct: we speak with providers, measure vendors, and help the vendors improve, which ultimately helps doctors. When we realized the need for benchmarking around EMR satisfaction (only 6% of the first 50 organizations we surveyed had asked their clinicians about EMR satisfaction in the last three years), we knew there was an opportunity for KLAS to impact care in a different, important way.

Providers have been joining the Arch Collaborative, coming together to measure, benchmark and collaborate on how to improve clinician’s satisfaction with their EMRs. The ultimate goal of this collaboration is to identify and share best practices with healthcare providers. Here are a couple of the things we’ve learned so far:

1. Throwing Money at the Problem

As we’ve analyzed early data from the Arch Collaborative, we’ve seen that organizations who report spending a significantly higher percentage of their operational budget on IT don’t have significantly higher EMR user satisfaction.

EMR User Satisfaction

This is possibly one of the biggest silver linings to the physician burnout problem. While there are many solutions to the EMR productivity paradox, shaking down your CFO does not appear to be one of them.

2. Cultural Impact

Beyond the actual technology, the culture of an organization has a larger impact on EMR success than the vendor providing your EMR.

From our most recent report:

Organization Matters

But what do we mean when we say that “organization culture matters”? Essentially, this covers everything from physician empowerment to the governance model in place surrounding your EMR. Many dissatisfied clinicians shared the sentiment of feeling powerless when it comes to their EMR experience.

This powerlessness comes from an inability to suggest improvements in EMR workflow for some organizations or a feeling that IT leadership won’t listen if suggestions are made. The other facet of a culture of empowerment comes to training.

We so often hear CIOs express frustration at vendors who build fancy tools and then drop those off for the organization as if in a box with no instructions. Similarly, dissatisfied clinicians often feel as though their organization’s leadership has given them tools but no guidance. We found that organizations who focused 6 or more hours annually on EMR training found a significant increase in the satisfaction of their end-users.

Now, the idea of a 6-hour marathon training sounds about as fun as watching the development team build the EMR. That’s why many organizations are coming together to discuss how best to implement changes in training and other EMR best practices.

If you’d like learn more key factors to EMR success, read the summary of our recent report.