Physician gender tied to EHR-associated burnout, study finds

Gender-based differences in EHR use patterns may be the driving factor behind higher rates of burnout among female physicians, according to a study published in NJEM Catalyst.

For the study, University of California San Francisco researchers analyzed data on 1,336 UCSF physicians who provided ambulatory care at the health system between December 2016-17. Of the 1,336 study participants, 691 were identified as male and 645 were identified as female.  

Data examined in the study included objected measures of EHR use, including time spent performing certain activities, time spent at particular times of the day and the number of EHR tools being used.

Five insights on the study results:

1. On a work relative value unit basis, female physicians spent more time in the EHR after hours on clinic days as well as on non-clinic days and spent more time managing test results and responding to electronic messages in the EHR's In Basket, compared to the male study participants.

2. Regarding documentation patterns, female participants on average wrote longer clinical notes and a greater use of the copy/paste function in the EHR.

3. Female physicians returned 48 percent of patient calls/In Basket messages within 24 hours of receiving them, compared to male physicians who returned 18 percent.

4. Male physicians closed a higher percentage of office visits within the same day at 67 percent, compared to 61 percent for female physicians.

5. Overall, female physicians used more EHR documentation efficiency tools, including shortcuts and preference lists.

Study authors concluded that there may not be a single factor responsible for gender-based differences in EHR use and that their findings "may be due to a collection of factors — for example, communication styles, work preferences (e.g., when to perform work in order to achieve desired work-life balance), and patient expectations — that result in female physicians exhibiting different EHR use patterns," according to the report.

To access the full report, click here.

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