- Physician burnout has long been tied to increasing administrative burdens, including use of EHRs. A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association lends further weight to back up those claims.
- The researchers surveyed all 4,197 practicing physicians in Rhode Island in 2017 to assess levels of self-reported burnout. HIT-related stress was defined as having one of the following: little time for documentation, moderate to excessive at-home time spent on EHRs and belief that EHRs are a daily source of frustration.
- Of the 91% of EHR users who responded to the survey, 70% reported HIT–related stress, with primary care doctors being hardest hit.
The fact that primary care doctors reported the highest levels of burnout is particularly troubling, given the ongoing physician shortage in the U.S.
Demand for physicians nationwide grew 7% this year, up from 5.1% in 2017, according to Doximity, a social networking site for physicians. The greatest demand was for doctors in family and internal medicine, followed by emergency medicine and psychiatry. Obstetrics and gynecology rounded out the top five in-demand physicians.
The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates a shortage of as many as 105,000 physicians by 2030, with a potential shortfall of 43,000 in primary care.
Fueling the problem is a growing and aging U.S. population that will depend on a steady supply of doctors. The U.S. Census Bureau has projected that by 2050, 83.7 million Americans will be 65 or older — nearly twice the roughly 43 million in 2012.
Physicians who reported marginal time for documentation were 2.8 times as likely to suffer burnout as those reporting ample time, while physicians who spend large chunks of time on EHRs at home had a 1.9 times greater chance of burnout, according to the study.
Among doctors who saw EHRs as a daily frustration, the odds of burnout were 2.4 times that of those who disagreed.
"HIT-related stress is measurable, common (about 70% among respondents), specialty-related, and independently predictive of burnout symptoms," the authors write. "Identifying HIT-specific factors associated with burnout may guide healthcare organizations seeking to measure and remediate burnout among their physicians and staff."
The survey echoes others that have looked at the problem. In a recent Doctors Company survey, more than half of respondents said EHRs have a negative effect on physician-patient relationships (54%), efficiency and productivity (61%) and workflow (61%).