Nearly half of American physicians suffer from burnout according to a recent study and it’s a trend that appears to be getting worse. While physicians cite multiple causes of burnout, one that regularly pops up is stress related to increasing computerization. The good news is that 81% of physicians state that they feel they are becoming more comfortable using EHRs over time.
Here are five suggestions for coping with the perceived challenges of computerization and decreasing your stress levels along the way.
1. Fully Embrace The Change
It may be temping to update to a computerized system piecemeal, but according to a recent analysis, practices using moderate function EHR, meaning a system that is partly paper-based and partly computerized, left physicians feeling more stressed and burned out than practices using all paper or all computerization.
The authors theorize that because office workflow is so different between paper-based and computerized systems, offices that use both have the most disruptive workflows and highest levels of stress. They speculate that fully converting to computerization and making appropriate changes to office workflow can alleviate many of these difficulties.
2. Enable Your Support Staff To Help You
As the workflow of your practice changes, the duties of your office staff will also change. If the workflow is designed well, many of these changes can help decrease your workload and leave you feeling less burdened.
Nurses and medical assistants can take on some of the responsibilities of charting, including documenting medication reconciliation, entering vital signs and updating problem lists and social histories. Nurses can even enter certain orders that can be electronically co-signed later.
3. Smooth Out Your Own Workflow
Just as your entire practice will function more smoothly with a new workflow pattern, your personal workflow will also need to be modified when using an EHR.
To make charting and ordering less stressful, you may choose to create customized templates, favorite orders, shortcuts and quick keys.
One of the best ways to ease your personal workflow and decrease your stress is to work with a medical scribe who can do your charting while you focus on your patients.
Finally, if you continue to feel uncomfortable with your workflow, ask a colleague who seems at ease using your EHR for guidance. Peer-based training has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to boost physicians’ comfort and decrease their stress levels with EHRs.
4. Make The Most Of Additional Functions
Many of the extra features of EHRs are designed to make your work life less stressful. Using e-prescriptions can save you the trouble of faxing and calling pharmacies.
Patient portals allow patients to see their test results, schedule appointments, receive referrals and refills and update their medical problems without phone calls and letters.
Lastly, voice recognition software may not come as part of your package, but it can be integrated with your EHR and save you the inconvenience of typing.
5. Escape From The Office
In the days of paper, completing charts meant staying late or commuting back to the office. One advantage of computerization is that you can chart from anywhere. Rather than stay late, you can leave work and have dinner with your family, go to the gym or take your dog to the park and then complete your charts at home
Some physicians may prefer to keep their work at the office and that option is always available, however, EHRs offer the flexibility of getting out of the office at the end of the day, taking a stress-relieving break and completing your work when you are feeling less frazzled.
American physicians are experiencing rising rates of burnout, but with the right workflow design, training, and EHR, technology should alleviate rather than contribute to physician burnout.
Electronic health records concept image available from Shutterstock