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By Terese Hopper
Assistant Vice President, Healthcare Risk Engineering

The most common complaint of physicians and patients, according to the Journal of American Medical Informatics Association is that physicians spend more time completing administrative tasks in their electronic health record (EHR) than directly engaging with patients. According to Medscape’s 2019 National Physicians Burnout Report, nearly half of the 15,000 physicians surveyed reported feeling burnt out. Another report identified 64 percent of advanced practice nurses experience burnout.

The practice of defensive charting and the complexities of the EHR are blamed for detracting from direct patient time. Even so, there is no doubt the benefits of technology outweigh the burden. Technological advances have streamlined the delivery of patient care and are shown to improve patient safety. Tech is here to stay, and advancing steadily, fueled by some key trends:

  • Government regulations and industry standards are requiring increasing amounts of data and evidence of practices in order to comply with privacy, quality, reimbursement and litigation requirements.
  • Cyber-safe systems are transforming the role of clinicians by allowing records originated in one location to be securely and efficiently accessed by specialists, labs, pharmacies, imaging centers, vendors, patients and payers around the globe.
  • Independent medical practices and community hospitals are integrating with larger healthcare enterprises where they gain access to technology to support their administrative and clinical work that is otherwise out of their budgets.
  • Aggregated patient satisfaction data, facilitated by technology, has a direct impact on reimbursement and industry benchmarking.

Still, the downside of technology -- particularly duplicative and time-consuming tasks in the EHR -- is taking its toll on medical professionals in terms of increased burnout and turnover. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed expenses tied to physician burnout cost the US more than $4 billion annually.

Physician burnout is a serious problem that, if not addressed, can cascade into patient safety issues, costly medical errors and the premature loss of some of the healthcare industry’s best and brightest. With so much at risk, it is critical that signs of physician burnout, are proactively addressed and managed by hospital leaders, executives and most importantly, risk managers.

Reducing liability claims that can result from burnout should be on the mind of all risk managers. In today’s challenging climate, a robust response to burnout is essential and calls for the skills of a professional risk manager to help implement and bring it to fruition. 

The material presented in this article is not intended to provide legal or other expert advice as to any of the subjects mentioned, but rather is presented for general information only. You should consult knowledgeable legal counsel or other knowledgeable experts as to any legal or technical questions you may have.