Mayo study links EHRs with physician burnout

The hours upon hours of EHR box-checking and data entry are taking a major toll on U.S. physicians, according to new research in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

"Electronic health records hold great promise for enhancing coordination of care and improving quality of care," says Tait Shanafelt, MD, Mayo Clinic physician and lead author of the study, said in a statement. "In their current form and implementation, however, they have had a number of unintended negative consequences including reducing efficiency, increasing clerical burden and increasing the risk of burnout for physicians."

Researchers from Mayo Clinic and the American Medical Association surveyed a national sample of 6,560 physicians about burnout, including specific items about electronic practice. Respondents pointed to the clerical burden that EHRs create, which varies by specialty, as a contributor to feelings of professional burnout and lower satisfaction. Specialties that reported the lowest levels of clerical burden were family medicine physicians, urologists, otolaryngologists and neurologists.

"Burnout has been shown to erode quality of care, increase risk of medical errors, and lead physicians to reduce clinical work hours, suggesting that the net effect of these electronic tools on quality of care for the U.S. healthcare system is less clear," Dr. Shanafelt said.

The researchers recommend provider organizations emphasize finding methods of integrating EHR technology that don't reduce physician efficiency or drastically increase clerical burden. 

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