A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Slow Burn

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Stress from using electronic health records is linked to physician burnout.

While electronic health records (EHRs) improve communication and access to patient data, researchers found that stress from using EHRs is associated with burnout, particularly for primary care doctors such as pediatricians, family medicine physicians, and general internists.

Common causes of EHR-related stress include too little time for documentation, time spent at home managing records, and EHR user interfaces that are not intuitive to the physicians who use them. 

“You don’t want your doctor to be burned out or frustrated by the technology that stands between you and them,” says Rebekah Gardner, MD, an associate professor of medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School. “In this paper, we show that EHR stress is associated with burnout, even after controlling for a lot of different demographic and practice characteristics. Quantitatively, physicians who have identified these stressors are more likely to be burned out than physicians who haven’t.”

The findings were published on December 5 in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

Many prior studies have looked into the factors that contribute to burnout in health care, says Gardner, lead author and also a senior medical scientist at Healthcentric Advisors. Besides health information technology, these factors include chaotic work environments, productivity pressures, lack of autonomy, and a misalignment between the doctors’ values and the values they perceive the leaders of their organizations hold. 

She adds that prior research has shown that patients of burned-out physicians experience more errors and unnecessary tests.

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