Doctors from every specialty are feeling more burned out than ever. Among emergency physicians, for instance, over 60% admit to feeling burned out, and many have considered leaving medicine altogether. With a shortage of physicians, there are fewer providers every year to meet growing patient demands.
Yet, it isn’t just the thinning of their ranks that is wearing physicians down; it’s also the fact that they spend two-thirds of their time doing paperwork rather than actually caring for patients. For every hour they spend with a patient, physicians have to spend two more completing paperwork and working on electronic health records, reviewing test results, logging information, writing medication orders and other tasks.
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To exacerbate matters, networks from different providers don’t communicate with one another, so one provider might not know what the previous provider has prescribed or whether the patient is adhering to the treatment. When patients need to visit a specialist or another provider from a different network, doctors are burdened with even more unnecessary paperwork.
These issues create roadblocks to better patient care—most physicians join medicine to help people, and if the current practice environment and data management systems interfere with that goal, it’s time to change them.
EHRs: The Good and the Bad
In the past, medical transcription used to be easier. A doctor dictated exam outcomes on the fly, and a transcriptionist typed it into the patient record immediately. This allowed doctors to focus on patients while still recording data.
Then, electronic health records (EHRs) came into the picture. EHRs were intended to be a way to better track health data for hospitals, payers and physicians. Although they have good intentions, they often end up causing more problems than they solve.
According to a study by Northwestern University, physicians who have EHRs in their exam rooms spend around 33% of their time looking at their computer screens, while doctors who use paper charts spend only 9% of their time looking at screens.
Also, EHRs can store massive amounts of data, which is a double-edged sword because though data is important, the structure of that data creates challenges. On one hand, it is too limiting. Doctors can enter information about a patient's medical history, medications and procedures—but only through constrained check boxes that don't capture nuances and complexities.