42% of physicians reported burnout in a 2018 Medscape survey. With 15,543 physicians surveyed across 29 specialties, burnout and depression unfortunately continues to be a pervasive issue.
Burnout and depression can lead to physician suicides. One doctor commits suicide in the US every day -- the highest suicide rate of any profession. Patients feel the ripple effect, too. Statistics show that the average physician in the US is responsible for 2,300 patients. These annual physician suicides translate to > 1 million patients losing their doctors to suicide each year1.
Respondents who reported burnout could select more than one contributing factor. The top factors? An excess of administrative tasks and too many hours working (at work and at home). EHRs are notably fourth – so they are certainly part of the problem, yet many wager can eventually become part of the solution.
The American College of Physicians (ACP) published an article on how physicians actually spend their day.While in the exam room with patients, physicians spent their time primarily in these two areas:
52.9% on direct clinical work and face-time with patient
37.0% on EHR and administrative tasks
The conclusion of the study: “for every hour physicians provide direct clinical face time to patients, nearly 2 additional hours are spent on EHR and desk work within the clinic day”.
The amount of time physicians on that work within the EHR and on administrative tasks is obviously alarming.Good technology is supposed to designed to improve processes and experiences. EHRs continue to improve and evolve, but today they remain a burden for clinicians. In fact, many physicians report taking work home as a necessity to complete charts and documentation – a contributing factor in burnout.
Sharp Index - a measure of burnout. Taking work home
results in a worse level of burnout.
So – what can we do? We’re not going to solve this multifaceted problem overnight, but optimizing your EHR and using complementary technologies like analytics can be part of the solution by taking small steps and reducing the burdens. Why analytics? It can help surface up valuable insights from the vast data of EHRs (which are primarily data-entry tools). Analytics can enhance the EHR when paired appropriately and with ease of use in mind. Let’s cover some techniques we’ve seen make things a little easier when working with healthcare data and analytics:
1. Make it Google easy and fast
You should have a search box to
ask and answer questions quickly. I don’t want to go back to IT with another
report request or wait for the hourglass to spin.
2. Make those black boxes transparent
If you’re going to provide a
predictive model, let me see the factors/drivers and allow me to customize it.
Show me what’s behind that risk score and why.
3. Augment my intelligence - don’t Artificially replace it.
Suggesting actions and visualizations is good, but allowing me to use my medical knowledge to choose and learning from that is better.
4. Make data fun, yet useful.
Sure… a 5-dimensional visualization that gives back rubs is interesting (thanks @QlikDork for that one), but it’s overwhelming. Make the visualizations easy to understand, engaging, and useful.
5. Show me information I don’t already know, that is relevant to caring for my patients.
EHRs don’t have all the answers –
information from outside the EHR, like SDoH, needs to be presented and in
6. Don’t make me launch yet another application!
Physicians and care teams need
help to reduce the number of systems viewed per patient visit to access the
data essential to value-based care. This means embed the data and analytics in
my EHR workflows. (Luckily, Qlik has integrations with Epic, Cerner,
Modernizing Medicine, and more)
I think Janae Sharp, of the Sharp Index on physician burnout, says it best: “At a time when technology should be improving their ability to care for their patients and increase the time they have to focus on that care, the opposite seems to be true. Along with all of the other factors that are competing for clinicians’ time and causing such unprecedented burnout, technology must make their lives simpler.”
About the Sharp Index
Janae Sharp is the founder and CEO of the Sharp Index, a nonprofit organization dedicated to better physician mental health. The Sharp Index is creating solutions that can aid in the detection of burnout by alerting physicians and their support networks to potential burnout, while providing them with resources and treatment. With human-focused and data-backed solutions to address the complex problem of physician suicide, the Sharp Index helps to maximize workforce satisfaction among our partnering healthcare organizations and medical schools. “We’re on a mission to end physician suicide caused by burnout. Together we can create a system to heal the healers.”