Why this physician says he quit his 45-year career in medicine: The stress of adapting to the EHR

Regulatory reporting requirements and usability issues associated with EHRs can cause stress for physicians. While some can adapt to the technology, others, including Edward Volpintesta, MD, have not.

In a Feb. 21 op-ed for NewsTimes, Dr. Volpintesta discussed his experience transitioning to an EHR system after spending 45 years as a general practitioner recording patient records on paper with pen. Dr. Volpintesta, who is based in Bethel, Conn., said he started using the EHR for the first time several months ago after joining a medical practice that uses it. A few months after the transition, Dr. Volpintesta quit practicing medicine.    

"After working four months with an electronic system, the mental stress took its toll," he wrote. "Although I had limited my practice to seeing patients only two afternoons a week, I took my computer home at night and spent about one hour completing tasks such as reviewing blood work and refills for medications."

In addition to feeling unhappy and having trouble sleeping, Dr. Volpintesta said his personal relationship with his patients was also suffering. EHR designs present usability issues and create pressure for physicians to electronically record an abundance of data entries to receive compensation from insurers. This time spent with the EHR detracts from the physician's face time with the patient, making the office visit less personal, Dr. Volpintesta wrote.

"Like many other doctors, I found that plucking away on a computer keyboard is distracting," he wrote. "It causes mental fatigue. It takes away from eye contact… Some patients complain that their physicians don't seem interested in them as they did before using electronic records."

In a 2019 American Medical Association-led study, physicians graded EHRs as an "F" rating in terms of usability and attributed them as a cause of burnout.

"For many doctors, practicing medicine is hard enough without the hassle and waste of time spent getting authorization from insurers for patients' medications, blood tests, CAT scans, MRIs, and referrals to specialists," Dr. Volpintesta wrote.

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