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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.

 

A Great Look Into Healthcare Quality Improvement

Posted on June 14, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As I think back on the evolution of EHR software and healthcare IT, it’s been incredible to see how EHR has moved from being something that could help improve your billing to now trying to be something to improve the quality of healthcare that’s being provided. In fact, I’ve long argued that the expectation of EHR was far ahead of the EHR reality. EHRs weren’t designed for quality and so it was a mistake for many to believe that it would improve quality.

While that’s the reality of history, going forward the new EHR reality is that they better figure out how to improve healthcare quality. In fact, the ones that are able to do this are going to be the most successful.

As we shift our focus to healthcare quality, I was intrigued by this video animation by Doc Mike Evans describing healthcare quality. It’s fascinating to look at the history and consider healthcare quality going forward.

What do you think of Doc Mike Evans’ thoughts on Healthcare Quality Improvement? Is he spot on? Is there something he’s missing?

Video Interview with Helen Waters, VP at MEDITECH

Posted on January 29, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Healthcare Scene was lucky to sit down with Helen Waters, VP at MEDITECH, to talk about the EHR market and MEDITECH’s place in that market. Plus, we dive into the culture and history of MEDITECH and how it’s changed. We also explore MEDITECH’s plans around innovation, integration, and value along with MEDITECH’s efforts to deploy cloud and mobile solutions. Finally, we had to talk about healthcare interoperability. We hope you’ll enjoy this wide ranging interview with Helen Waters:

After the formal interview we did above, we allow people watching live to be able to ask questions and even hop on camera to offer their insights or ask questions of Helen in what we call the “after party.” In this “after party” discussion we talk to Helen about her thoughts on the changing healthcare reimbursement landscape and what MEDITECH is doing to prepare for it. We also talk about integrating telemedicine into MEDITECH. I also ask Helen about MEDITECH’s views on EHR APIs.

We hope you’ll enjoy this look into EHR vendor, MEDITECH.

The Tyranny of “Time” – EHR Efficiency Has a Lifecycle

Posted on November 5, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I love when you can find a picture, chart or graph that describes an important concept. I saw that during a CHIME Fall Forum focus group that was led by Heather Haugen from The Breakaway Group. During the focus group, Heather put up the following slide to describe the level of optimization a hospital experiences during the lifecycle of an EHR.

EHR Adoption Optimization Lifecycle

The key element in the above graph is the trough that happens after the initial adoption. I think the slide into that trough of EHR inefficiency is as steep as what’s shown on the graph, but the dip in efficiency definitely occurs. In fact, I think that the path to inefficient EHR use is slow and that’s why many healthcare leaders don’t notice when it happens.

The solution to this problem is to create a program in your organization that manages upgrades, provides ongoing training, and regular workflow assessment and optimization. I imagine most organizations weren’t worried about this when they slapped in their EHR to meet meaningful use. However, now they’re all going to have to take a deep look into solving this long term problem.

Full Disclosure: The Breakaway Group is a sponsor of the Breakaway Thinking series of blog posts on EMR and HIPAA.

Don’t Act Like Charting on Paper Was Fast

Posted on May 23, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

One of the things I hear people talk about all the time is how much time they spend charting in their EMR. There’s little question that doctors, nurses, and front desk staff’s lives revolve around an EMR when one is implemented in an office. However, the same was true with the paper chart.

How many times have we hear doctors say, “I’ve got a stack of paper charts I have to finish.”? Or the phrase, “I’m drowning in charting.” It happened all the time even in the paper chart world. Why else would a doctor take a stack of paper charts home with them in their car. It wasn’t for some light reading at night. It was so they could catch up on their paper charting (yes, some took them home for their hospital rounds too).

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that we should give inefficient and poorly designed EMR software a pass. Absolutely not! I am saying that far too many people forget how inefficient paper could be and how the charting and documentation requirements took a lot of time before EMR as well.

In my EHR benefits series, I wrote about the efficiency benefits of Legible Notes and Accessible Charts. I’ve heard many doctors talk about how templates help make them more efficient when it comes to charting. I know many doctors who can touch type so quickly that they can’t imagine writing a paper chart anymore. I know many doctors who use a scribe and see amazing efficiency with charting.

On the other side, I know some who hate their EMR. Their EMR is so slow that they can barely chart in it. They get overwhelmed by the clicks. They spend hours trying to find the right diagnosis or code or template. They have stacks of EMR charts waiting for them to finish charting.

The reality is that you can paint the EMR picture either way. I’ve seen both sides of the story happen many times. However, far too many who ridicule the inefficiencies of EMR seem to forget the inefficiency of paper.

Large EHR Vendor Recommendation

Posted on February 1, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

One of the more interesting dynamics in the EMR and EHR world has to do with large versus small EHR companies. I guess we’ve always loved a big versus small story ever since David slew the Giant Goliath. Plus, there’s something American that causes most of us to really root for the underdog. I don’t know what it is, but unless my team is playing I’m most often hoping that the underdog spoils the party and does something surprising. Maybe this is why so many of us love to pit the big EHR vendors against the small EHR vendors.

Personally I don’t have any particular preference for or against larger or small EHR vendors. I care more about choosing the right EHR vendor for the right situation. In some cases those are small EHR vendors and in some cases those are large EHR vendors. I only discriminate against EHR vendors who don’t perform. Many of those that don’t perform I call Jabba the Hutt EHRs. If you haven’t read my Jabba the Hutt EHR posts, you should.

Although, what prompted this post was a comment I read recently from a doctor who uses a large EHR vendor. I won’t say which EHR or who made this comment since it doesn’t matter to learn from the comment. They basically made this suggestion:I recommended a large EHR so that it can connect everything. Then he said that the large EHR vendor decreased productivity.

Certainly I realize this is only one person discussing why doctors should go with a large EHR vendor, but if I’m a large EHR vendor I’d be really upset if this is my message. And while this is one example, I’ve certainly heard it other times before.

Think about this message from a physician’s perspective. I can either go with an EHR product that decreases my productivity (Translation: I make less money) or with an EHR product that can connect everything (Translation: That’s nice, but does it save me time or make me more money?)

All the connections in the world are great, but if you hurt a clinical processes business in the process then that’s going to be a real problem. I’m a huge EHR software advocate. I think every doctor should use EHR. However, if EHR vendors continue to do EHR implementations that have a long term negative impact on EHR productivity, then physicians will continue to resist EHR software in their offices.

The good news is that I’m seeing more and more EHR vendors focused on maintaining and improving the productivity of an office during and after an EHR implementation. I hope that trend continues and that all EHR vendors become fanatical at maximizing the efficiency of a practice during and post EHR implementation.

ONC Head Blumenthal Says Certified EHR Not Good Enough

Posted on April 1, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

John over at Chilmark Research has a really good find on his blog. He quotes the new head of ONC, David Blumenthal, from an article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) where Blumenthal talks about the certified EHR requirement in the HITECH act. Here’s the quote:

ONCHIT currently contracts with a private organization, the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology, to certify EHRs as having the basic capabilities the federal government believes they need. But many certified EHRs are neither user-friendly nor designed to meet HITECH’s ambitious goal of improving quality and efficiency in the health care system. Tightening the certification process is a critical early challenge for ONCHIT.

I find it really interesting how two people can take the same quote different directions. Chilmark Research gives a nice little rant about how you can’t certify usability, quality and efficiency in an EHR. I agree with him on most points and I definitely agree that the market is much better at these three items than some government certification body.

However, I don’t feel like this was what Blumenthal meant in the above quote. I don’t think Blumenthal was trying to say that the certification would need to certify user-friendly, quality and efficient EHR software. Instead, I see the above quote meaning that the current CCHIT certification isn’t good enough, because it has certified a bunch of unusable EHR (a topic we’ve talked about many times before). Sounds to me that Blumenthal is making a case for why the government shouldn’t use the CCHIT certification. At least not in its current form. Essentially Blumenthal is saying that CCHIT isn’t good enough to meet the goals of HITECH.

This seems like a ray of hope for myself and others who think that selecting CCHIT certification as the certified EHR requirement of the HITECH act is the worst decision the government could make. Albeit still just a ray.

What Blumenthal means about “tightening the certification process” is up for debate. He could mean something like what John from Chilmark research describes. Basically some convoluted method of measuring usability, quality and efficiency of an EHR system. Or it could mean that the certification process will need to be tightened so that unneeded requirements are removed and it gets cut down to what will help an EHR achieve the ambitious goals of the HITECH act.

Of course, in the end the certified EHR criteria will probably land somewhere in between. However, this quote did give me some hope that Blumenthal realizes the impact that it will have on EHR adoption if many of the currently unusable certified EHR gain wide adoption thanks to the $18 billion in EHR stimulus money.

I do think John from Chilmark Research does make a nice conclusion to his post:

Suggesting that we tighten the certification process is heading in the wrong direction. Instead, we need to actually relax the certification process to encourage innovation in the HIT market allowing developers to create solutions that will truly provide value to their users while concurrently meeting the broader objectives of delivering better care and better outcomes. Creating light certification criteria and focusing more on what outcomes we wish to see occur as a result of broad HIT adoption is where Blumenthal and his staff need to focus their energies.