Brutal Truth: You Can’t Stop Burnout Until You Do This

December 6, 2021 |
December 6, 2021

How much time do providers spend on EHR documentation, administrative work, and paperwork? It’s a question Medscape asks every year in its annual Physician Compensation Report. And the results aren’t pretty.

In 2021, physicians said they averaged 15.6 hours per week on paperwork, a trend that’s been heading upward over the past five years. A breakdown of specialists who spend the most time on clinical documentation:

  • Infectious disease – 24.2 hours
  • Public health and preventive medicine – 20.7 hours
  • Nephrology – 19.8 hours
  • Internal medicine – 19.7 hours
  • Pathology – 19.0 hours

It’s astonishing that, in the midst of a global pandemic, two of the specialists people need the most—infectious disease and public health providers—spend more than 20 hours each week on paperwork. That means they have less time for what they’re trained to do best: Care for patients.

All of this paperwork leads to a troubling trend—physician burnout, a problem that reduces the quality of care and negatively impacts healthcare organization’s revenue streams. Statistics show that burnout isn’t getting much better. In 2016, 46% of physicians reported burnout, according to Medscape’s National Physician Burnout & Suicide Report. Five years later, 42% of physicians still report feelings of burnout.

The top five most burned out specialists:

  • Critical Care – 51%
  • Rheumatology – 50%
  • Infectious Diseases – 49%
  • Urology – 49%
  • Pulmonary Medicine – 48%

While clinical documentation headaches aren’t the only reason for provider burnout, they do lead to many of the symptoms. The MEMO—Minimizing Error, Maximizing Outcome—study funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality uncovered these top five reasons for burnout:

  • Chaotic environment
  • Family responsibilities
  • EHR
  • Low control of pace
  • Time pressures

Of those five, “family responsibilities” are the only ones not directly impacted by clinical documentation woes.

You don’t have to survey your physicians and other clinicians to see the symptoms of burnout. These days, you can simply look on your social media channel of choice. Odds are you’ll see posts, photos, and videos of clinicians venting their day-to-day frustrations—annoyance with system crashes, irritation with new EHR feature rollouts, dissatisfaction with IT team response, and ongoing bitterness with the growing number of clicks, glitches, and screens they need to navigate.

The Rx for Burnout: Documentation Technology Solutions and Services

We know what you’re thinking: Isn’t technology causing burnout? In reality, that’s not accurate. EHRs are still exceptional tools that hold the power and promise of simplifying processes and improving care. The problem isn’t with the EHR technology itself. Instead, the root cause lies in the clinical documentation workflows, the multiple and sometimes redundant steps and processes providers and other clinicians must take to get clinical documentation right.

As all healthcare organizations face a critical crossroads of financial pressures, continued COVID-19 caregiving and staffing concerns, and increasing levels of provider burnout, finding ways to reduce clinicians’ documentation burdens and give them more time with patients must be at the top of leaders’ to-do list.

Dive into the details, and you’ll find a wealth of solutions and services promising you the moon and the stars. But how do you know which ones will be right for your organization—and, most importantly, your providers? Start by asking some of your physicians these two key questions:

1. How do they prefer to document clinic visits?When you ask this question, you’re sure to get different answers. Some will tell you they prefer dictation. Others will say they like medical scribing. Still others will say they would like to use both. The good news: It’s possible to find a solution that allows them to do both in the same app with eSOne from DeliverHealth.

Allowing providers to access scribing in the same platform as transcribing brings multiple benefits. It eases providers’ stress by giving them what they want, when they want. But more importantly, virtual medical scribing has multiple proven benefits, the top three of which we revealed in this recent blog post. In fact, we’ve seen studies that show medical scribing allows clinicians to spend 75% of their time on direct clinical interaction and just 25% of their time on EHR-related tasks.

2. What is their comfort level with clinical documentation? As a rule, physicians—and people in general—don’t always like to speak out their shortcomings. So, when starting this discussion, let physicians know it’s OK to say they’re struggling with documentation, and that you’re here to listen, learn, and offer them help. The more honest clinicians are about their documentation difficulties—whether they’re concerned with telehealth documentation, accessing legacy data, or handling chart abstraction and preparation—the more clues you’ll find to help you identify the right consulting and workflow solutions that can help your organization improve efficiency and enhance outcomes.

Get Help to Reduce Physician Burnout Today

EHRs are exceptionally valuable tools. When workflows are made simpler and administrative processes are aligned, your EHR will finally live up to its promise of reducing physician burnout and engaging patients.

Learn more about how the subject matter experts and leading-edge solutions at DeliverHealth can help solve your clinical documentation needs today.