Battling EHR Fatigue – A Guide for Technology Providers
The rapid digitization of healthcare has had its share of boons and banes for doctors and patients. With the integration of technology into medicine, newer and more sophisticated devices and methods have been added to clinical decision support. The newer technologies have brought marked improvements in patient care experience but, at the same time, have increased the burden on the caregivers to a certain extent. One of the notable causes of physician burnout is the use of Electronic Health records (EHR), which has brought about a condition or syndrome known as “EHR Fatigue” and physicians are now battling to fight it out.
This blog discusses some of the reasons for EHR fatigue and ways to overcome it.
EHRs take away more of a physician’s time
EHRs were originally designed to assist doctors in recording and maintaining patient data easily and make data-sharing between hospitals more streamlined. Governments across various countries have made huge investments and kept aside liberal budgets to encourage the adoption of EHRs to improve quality of care and patient outcomes. But, despite these efforts, EHRs have not quite brought about the desired results. Instead, EHRs have actually resulted in doctors giving their patients lesser face time.
The American Medical Association has conducted studies to find out how much time doctors spend with their patients versus the time spent on their EHR systems and other administrative tasks. The study revealed that EHR systems are creating numerous extra documentation processes and workflows, which are eating into the time that doctors have to spend with their patients. Some studies have found that doctors are spending about two quarters of their day on filling in EHR records (entering patient data, such as drug prescriptions, allergies, and so on) and desk work and just about a quarter of their workday was spent with patients. That meant that doctors are spending two hours on updating their electronic records for every one hour of their time spent face-to-face with their patients. Those who did not update their EHR records during work hours had to spend their personal time doing this activity. This is not only a negative factor for the physician but for the healthcare organization as a whole because physicians are now seeing lesser patients than before.
The study concluded that EHRs occupy a lot of physicians’ time and draw attention away from their direct interactions with patients and from their personal lives. Physicians are fatigued and burnt out, dissatisfied with their work-life balance, and are intending to reduce clinical work hours, or even thinking of leaving their profession. This loss of enthusiasm, physical and emotional fatigue might bring about a severe crisis in the healthcare system.
To solve this problem, technology providers offering EHR solutions need to create the systems, which are extremely easy to use, intuitive, mobile-friendly and do not take a lot of time of the doctors.
EHR data entry is time-consuming
Physicians felt that the EHR workflows are generic and not intuitive. EHRs are meant to be user-friendly; the physician or assistant staff should be able to enter patient data easily or be able to retrieve information about a patient with a few clicks. But most of the times, this does not happen. Most of the physicians who interacted with EHRs felt that data entry was cumbersome and time-consuming, and hampered their clinical workflow.
Moreover, using a generic EHR for a specialty practice can be frustrating because the clinicians need to complete required fields that do not apply to their specialty before moving to another screen. It is, therefore, important to choose the right software tailor-made for your practice so that everyday documentation is more efficient and less time-consuming. Specialty EHRs have everything your practice needs allowing more time to get comfortable with your new system.
EHR systems send automatic email alerts to physicians on situations that need their attention. Theoretically, these warnings are well intended but many of them are unnecessary, telling physicians things they already know. Hence, in a real-life scenario, it is highly unpractical because each physician who deals with many patients receives a staggeringly high number of alerts per day per patient, which they cannot handle diligently. These alerts put undue pressure on physicians, thereby desensitizing them to these alert messages. As a result, physicians tend to ignore or fail to respond appropriately to such messages. The systems need to be intelligent to alert the doctors depending on the severity of the issues.
Sharing information is difficult
EHR systems provided by different vendors are not compatible with each other making it very difficult and almost impossible to collaborate information between different disciplines within a healthcare organization or across different healthcare organizations. Doctors in multiple specialties feel frustrated when health information cannot be exchanged between EHRs and patient information has to be shared over fax or physical copies have to be shared between care settings.
EHR technology providers can help the healthcare institutions in ensuring that data from the legacy systems is appropriately migrated to the new systems and there are connectors available for easy data communication across other systems.
EHRs have a steep learning curve
Computer skills are one of the major stumbling blocks to the seamless adoption of EHR systems. Physicians and clinical staff who are not computer savvy have to spend a great deal of time learning how to use EHR systems and this is quite difficult in the beginning.
However, if the EHRs are built with usability in mind, consider the working patterns of the doctors, and provide touch and tap options, it can be extremely easy for the all the users to use those.
EHR systems are the future and the medical fraternity must find out ways to adapt to it easily and to move with the times. EHR technology providers have a crucial role to play here in ensuring that the systems which they built are easy to use, intuitive, consider the workflows of the doctors, provide customizations based on the clinical workflows of the specific hospital, and are improved through continuous feedback mechanisms. EHR implementations do not mean only technology implementation – those involve a lot of training and cultural change. The technology providers and all the users need to work collaboratively to ensure a successful implementation.