It’s More than the EHR That Is Causing Physician Burnout
By Julie Mann
Julie Mann is chief commercial officer of Holon Solutions of Alpharetta, GA.
The cause of physician burnout is a frequent topic on this site and many healthcare sites. The culprit in these posts and articles – as well as those written in major publications such as the New Yorker and Fortune – is inevitably the EHR.
The story is familiar by now. Doctors hate EHRs, doctors spend too much time on them, they interfere with patient care, they take away from the coveted doctor-patient relationship, etc.
What many of these articles don’t discuss, however, is that it’s not just the EHR – or even EHRs from many different providers – that are causing inefficiency, frustration, and burnout.
The broader problem is the non-EHR-stored data in payer portals, analytics platforms, HIEs, and elsewhere. Physicians have to log-in and log-out of all these different places for almost every patient, 30 or more times a day, and then search and scan through irrelevant screens of data to find the specific information they want to know. If the important, contextual data were available in their workflow immediately at the point of care, then it would drastically speed up their workflows.
The current federal proposal (now closed for public comment) to solve the interoperability problem may make data easier to share across EHR platforms, but it doesn’t solve the context or workflow problem. What the proposal amounts to is not much different than the early days of HIE and sharing CCDs, which no physician has the time or interest to read because they’re too long and filled with information a physician at the point of care already knows, doesn’t care about at that moment, or doesn’t care about at all.
While the quantity of information shared between different parties may improve if the current interoperability proposal moves forward, it’s unlikely the quality or relevance of the data will change at all. That is because this proposal doesn’t seem to consider workflow or context, which means physicians will spend more time searching and scanning through pages of digital data, resulting in greater frustration levels and experience even more administrative burden.
New or augmented automated workflows can be triggered at the point of care, in concert with patient-relevant context, to make the overall healthcare delivery more meaningful, efficient, and robust to reduce physician frustration.
Patented sensor-based software technology in use at health systems and practices delivers actionable patient data to providers within any EHR system, and from any third-party source, without the need for interfaces. These aren’t APIs that just pass blobs of data back and forth without regard for context or what the physician actually wants to know. Rather the sensors recognize when a provider is in a patient’s chart and automatically surface relevant care gaps and other information within the provider’s workflow immediately when they open the chart.
The information is visually integrated into the workflow (think of it as right next to the chart on the screen), allowing the physician to quickly review information he or she actually cares about instead of logging in , searching, and scanning only to find nothing.
Instead of searching, providers have all the care and coding gap information curated from analytics platforms and other physicians’ charts, but also from population health management companies, a laboratory or radiology testing company, or a SMART on FHIR-enabled application hosted by a third-party system.
The sensors, however, aren’t mind readers. The health system would define which data from which EHRs, applications, portals, and elsewhere their physicians would want to know. Because the sensor technology and supporting application are independent of any EHR or other HIT companies, third-party vendors do not need to get involved. That saves months of waiting and untold dollars for the health system because no vendor needs to create or implement an expensive point-to-point interface.
The final interoperability rule may look exactly like the proposal, but it may not. Instead of waiting to see whatever solution comes from the legislation, if any, health systems can reduce their physicians’ burnout through simple, effective, plug-and-play solutions now.
Healthcare data is expected to grow by more than 36% from last year to 2025, which is the largest trajectory of any of the industries studied. Physicians are already buried in data. More data will only add to health systems’ physician burnout problem if they don’t get a handle on this tsunami of information.
Putting contextual insights in front of physicians immediately in their workflow won’t solve all burnout issues, but it is an important step forward in a crucial patient care quality and financial issue for health systems. Liberating the data will liberate the care.