According to a review published in Administration and Policy in Mental Health, burnout—which the authors define as experiencing “emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment”—is rampant in the medical field. In fact, after looking at a number of different studies, it was concluded that these types of negative feelings affect as many as 67 percent of those with careers in a health-related occupation, on at least some level.
As far as causes go, one Mayo Clinic study identified a strong correlation between the use of electronic health records, or EHRs, and burnout. Specifically, researchers found that “physicians who used EHRs…were less likely to be satisfied with the amount of time spent on clerical tasks.” So what factors could have contributed to this finding? Here are three biggest reasons to consider before choosing your EHR.
High Latency or Delayed Response Rate
If you’ve ever tried to surf the web with a slow internet connection, then you’re more than familiar with this concept. You put in the website URL, then sit and wait and wait and wait while it loads. Then, when it’s finally up, you click on the page or link you want only to be stuck waiting again. It can be maddening.
When it comes to EHRs, this type of sit-and-wait scenario (which can happen when you’re trying to choose menu options, add new data, or attempt to access patient records), can lead to the feelings mental and emotional exhaustion. Over time symptoms of depersonalization and reduced personal accomplishment set in which are the hallmark characteristics of burnout.
However, you can avoid this delayed response by choosing an EHR that responds instantaneously to your prompts. Ideally, it should also sync with all open windows across all users and computers, so you always see the latest, most recent data entered.
Poor Practice Managment Integration (Or Lack Thereof)
If an EHR has poorly integrated practice management (PM) functions, the risk of burnout is high. This situation happens when PM functions are either missing, require too many steps, or too dependent on 3rd party applications. In any of these cases, staff and providers may experience significant workflow problems.
One way to resolve these PM issues is to test specific administrative functions. Make a note of how easy or hard it is to navigate through each step. Some main areas to consider testing include patient scheduling, appointment reminders, and billing.
Additionally, all administrative functions should be built by the same EHR vendor. It should be fast, easy, and seamless to go from one task to the next. The more workflow steps when inputting information, the greater the chance of error, and the greater the cost to your business. Think of the 1-10-100 rule which says that every dollar spent on prevention can save you $10 on correcting the issue and $100 dollars on failure costs.
A third EHR factor that could contribute to higher burnout rates is if the system you choose has a poor workflow. This design flow can mostly occur if the EHR requires a high number of clicks to update a patient’s record. Avoid and EHRs that depend on many pop-up windows instead of tabs to navigate. Be aware of any unnecessary or redundant data entry and if the layout seems unintuitive or contradictive to the way you would instinctively do your charting.
When considering an EHR then, check the functionality in these areas to ensure that the system will increase the efficiency of your workflow. This process is important as poor productivity in the workplace is linked to lower employee morale, higher employee absence, and higher employee turnover, three factors that can greatly impact your bottom line.
Finally, EHRs that regularly display errors is a big red flag. Hard errors or errors that result in a program shutting down or restarting should rarely if ever happen. These can cause data loss or corruption. Soft Errors or errors that prevent data from being entered should also rarely happen. Although not as concerning as Hard Errors, these can result in a temporary loss of data or program function. Regardless, both Hard and Soft Errors is a major contributor to Burnout if they occur on a regular basis.
One way to find an EHR avoids these types of errors is to check with other system users. Ask them if they have experienced any mistakes and how it has affected their use.
Burnout is high enough in chiropractic, don’t choose an EHR that makes the rate even higher. Instead, pay attention to these four factors when reviewing your health record options. Remember: The better the system, the happier (and more profitable) you’ll likely be.