Physician Burnout, a Healthcare Issue Unique to Our Healthcare Providers

Posted on May 25, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Justin Campbell, Vice President, Strategy, at Galen Healthcare Solutions.

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction…but I try, and I try, and I try, and I try – Rolling Stones

Justin CampbellIn a 2018 Medscape survey exploring the professional satisfaction of providers, 42 percent of 15,000 survey respondents reported feeling burnt out with their jobs, up from an overall rate of 40 percent in 2017. In recent years, physician burnout has become a serious industry issue, with national policy discussions ensuing on how to best combat the problem. Researchers have drawn correlations between physician burnout and higher medical error rates, lower overall quality of care, and increased clinical staff turnover. Year after year, the underlying drivers of dissatisfaction have remained consistent: overwhelming charting requirement, long work hours, and cumbersome EHRs.

As health IT leaders, one question we should be asking ourselves is how we can best apply our EHR expertise to help reduce physician burnout. To answer this question, let us look to the doctors we aim to help. When physicians are at the bedside, they analyze a patient’s condition and formulate a care plan accordingly. They look to diagnostic test results, review trended vitals, pain scores, and nursing assessments, and consult with specialists in a massive data gathering exercise all aimed at quantifying the problem and crafting a treatment plan.

Providers are telling us there is a problem, and they are consistently identifying the primary underlying causes. IT department leaders have a direct influence over many of the drivers of physician burnout, so it is time for us to dig into the details, measure the problem, and craft a treatment plan. How do we measure and manage physician burnout?

There’s Gold In Those EHR Audit Logs

The Office of the National Coordinator’s EHR Certification Requirements mandate that all certified EHRs be capable of generating an audit log detailing all user activity, stored in a database alongside user credentials and a date and time stamp. At first glance, these unassuming audit logs appear to provide little actionable insight, but buried in the data there is value. When audit logs are compiled across several months, data analysts will quickly see that they have a rich dataset that can be sliced and diced to expose the EHR navigation and module utilization trends of key physician populations.

Analyzing patterns within EHR audit logs will allow savvy data analysts to determine the average length of time providers spend working in the EHR. This information can be calculated at the individual level or aggregated across all providers.

Source: Galen Healthcare Solutions

Knowing how long providers are spending on administrative tasks in the EHR is valuable information for a number of reasons. First and foremost, this information can be used as a benchmark to measure the impact of future software updates or optimization projects. Any significant changes to provider workflow should be retrospectively reviewed to understand how it impacts the average time providers spend in the EHR. First, do no harm.

Analyzing user activity logs at the individual level also helps identify highly efficient EHR users within each specialty. The EHR workflow patterns of these EHR champions can be modeled. Peers can be educated on how to adjust their own workflows to mirror specialty-specific champions, reducing their own daily EHR burden. These “quick win” workflow adjustments are changes that can be adopted by clinical staff immediately, before extensive EHR optimization efforts are undertaken.

Audit log analysis can also highlight which EHR modules providers spend the most time in. In most cases, updating user preferences and optimizing the information displayed on EHR screens can expedite chart navigation. Simplified documentation templates and macros training can expedite the documentation process. A library of evidence-based order sets and targeted clinical decision support algorithms can minimize time spent entering orders.

Analyzing utilization trends at the EHR module level exposes the workflow tasks that are consuming a disproportionate amount of provider time.

Don’t. Stop. There.

EHR audit log analysis can reveal how much time providers are spending in the EHR, and where specifically they are spending that time. It can identify physician champions, and highlight those that are struggling. Audit log analysis can be used to measure EHR-induced physician burnout and support system-wide optimization efforts aimed at improving satisfaction.

Beyond this, EHRs offer a wealth of additional datasets that can help highlight inefficiencies in clinical workflows. Traditional health IT data analytics typically aims to uncover problems in care quality or revenue cycle management, but analysis focused on EHR workflow improvement is just as noble an effort, and one providers have long been seeking.

Gain perspectives from HDO leaders who have successfully navigated EMR clinical optimization and refine your EMR strategy to transform it from a short-term clinical documentation data repository to a long-term asset by downloading our EMR Optimization Whitepaper.

About Justin Campbell
Justin is Vice President, Strategy, at Galen Healthcare Solutions. He is responsible for market intelligence, segmentation, business and market development and competitive strategy. Justin has been consulting in Health IT for over 10 years, guiding clients in the implementation, integration and optimization of clinical systems. He has been on the front lines of system replacement & data migration and is passionate about advancing interoperability in healthcare and harnessing analytical insights to realize improvements in patient care. Justin can be found on Twitter at @TJustinCampbell and LinkedIn.

About Galen Healthcare Solutions
Galen Healthcare Solutions is an award-winning, #1 in KLAS healthcare IT technical & professional services and solutions company providing high-skilled, cross-platform expertise and Gold sponsor of Health IT Expo. For over a decade, Galen has partnered with more than 300 specialty practices, hospitals, health information exchanges, health systems and integrated delivery networks to provide high-quality, expert level IT consulting services including strategy, optimization, data migration, project management, and interoperability. Galen also delivers a suite of fully integrated products that enhance, automate, and simplify the access and use of clinical patient data within those systems to improve cost-efficiency and quality outcomes. For more information, visit www.galenhealthcare.com. Connect with us on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.