EHR Burdens Leave Docs Burned Out, in Critical Condition

John Commins, September 6, 2016

Physicians spend two-thirds of their day completing tasks on cumbersome electronic health records systems. It's a leading cause of physician burnout, research shows.

The electronic medical records that came with a promise of improving care efficiency are instead forcing physicians to spend more face time with a computer screen than with their patients.

Christine Sinsky, MD
Christine Sinsky, MD

An observational analysis and survey of 57 primary care and specialty physicians in four states that was detailed this week in Annals of Internal Medicine shows that for every hour a physician spends providing direct clinical face time with a patient, nearly two additional hours are spent on EHRs and administrative tasks.

The time it takes to record a wide array of EHR data points has become a leading factor in physician burnout, says study lead author Christine Sinsky, MD, a Dubuque, IA-based internist, and vice president of professional satisfaction for the American Medical Association.

Sinsky spoke with HealthLeaders Media about her study. The following is an edited transcript.

HLM: Are you surprised by these findings?

Sinsky: We expected there would be a large portion of the day directed toward EHR and administrative tasks, but the extent we found was more than we expected.

HLM: What's driving this?

Sinsky: It's a cumulative effect of many well-intentioned interventions in healthcare. More specifically, EHR simply takes longer than it does in the non-EHR world.

On top of that, the EHR has become the vehicle for implementing other ideas that may be helpful toward improving healthcare, performance measurements, and additional data collections. These may have some benefits, but they have also had this downside of consuming more and more physician time.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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