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Reduce technology burden to restore joy for physicians


A recent Mayo Clinic study on physician satisfaction with their EHRs showed that only 36 percent of 6,375 physicians interviewed were satisfied with their use.

A recent Mayo Clinic study on physician satisfaction with their EHRs showed that only 36 percent of 6,375 physicians interviewed were satisfied with their use. Furthermore, a majority of respondents indicated their systems were causing a clinical burden, resulting in emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and a reduced sense of personal accomplishment.

“We’ve burnt out a generation of clinicians despite the greatest advances in technology in healthcare,” says Bridget Duffy, MD, chief medical officer for healthcare communications firm, Vocera, and co-founder of the Experience Innovation Network, a research collaborative that focuses on alleviating physician burnout.

Duffy does not, however, recommend ditching technology as the answer, but instead thoughtfully employing these tools in ways that can remove hassles from physicians’ work days. “Physicians can no longer be data entry clerks,” she says. Instead, healthcare systems and practices must find technologies “that enable and restore the sacred relationship between physician and patient.”

These solutions could range from voice-activated software that could interface with EHRs to employing medical scribes. To address physician frustrations with their EHRs, she says it is useful to remember that these systems are a “repository for financial, clinical, and regulatory information… not a tool to enhance and enable the physician to patient encounter.”

She acknowledges that you can’t just throw mindfulness meditation at physicians who are burned out and expect that to be enough. In order for hospitals and healthcare systems to do this well, she recommends that they first need to understand the “top three pain points in a physician’s day” and then design for an ideal day in the life of that physician. “You need to remove the hassles and amplify the joy,” she says.

If “joy” sounds like a foreign concept in the life of a physician, all the greater the reason to look for ways to create more of it, she suggests. But to do so requires designing new metrics to measure the health of physicians and the health systems before and after technology is employed.

Duffy is part of the National Taskforce for Humanity in Healthcare, which is working on metrics for both well-being and resiliency for physicians and healthcare systems. The goal is that healthcare systems could perform a baseline measure of resilience and well-being before any new technology is rolled out, and then measure it afterward as well. Then, she feels, they would be able to assess more accurately if new technology is easing physicians’ burdens or adding to it. 

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