Leadership 2016
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Reducing the Burnout Effect of EHRs (03:34)

The electronic health record is a source of burnout among U.S. physicians. Data have shown that the more EHR functions that are turned on, the higher the rates of burnout and the intent of physicians to leave practice, according to Christine Sinsky, Vice President of Professional Satisfaction at the American Medical Association. “I think, though, that we can create an environment where there’s an incentive for our vendors to create delightful products,” says Sinsky. “If we develop that kind of product, if we can measure and report on the usability of different EHR products, we will probably start to change that environment.”

“It’s a challenge,” adds Tait Shanafelt, Director of the Mayo Clinic Department Program on Physician Well-Being. “There are many good qualities about the EHR. The question is addressing some of those unintended ways in which it’s increased clerical burden.” According to data from AMA and Mayo Clinic, computerized order entry is the electronic function driving burnout the most. One way to resolve this is to have other team members put in the orders, and then the physician can review and sign them. “I think that type of data helps us identify ways to mitigate the downsides of the EHR while preserving some of its virtues,” says Shanafelt.

Sinsky, who spent a week in the UK shadowing general practitioners and interviewing employees of the National Health Service, noticed that “the GPs really do like their EHRs. And as I watched them use them it was very, very different than my own use of the electronic health record.” The EHRs she saw were designed with GP input, and the GPs did not use the tools for billing. “Their notes were very short. They didn’t have the 8-page notes for sore throat that we have,” explains Sinsky. “So there were a combination of things, but it was used in a much lighter fashion than what we’re experiencing here.”

From the NEJM Catalyst event Leadership: Translating Challenge to Success at Mayo Clinic, June 2, 2016.

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