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KLAS: Improved EHR Efficiency Can Mitigate Early-Stage Clinician Burnout

To help address clinician burnout in its early stages, organizations can focus on EHR efficiency by providing additional EHR training, KLAS authors said.

Preventing clinician burnout by increasing EHR efficiency is easier than reducing burnout after it has peaked, according to a KLAS Arch Collaborative report.

The report leverages data collected from 20,229 physicians and 32,782 nurses between January 2022 and August 2023.

Overall, the number of clinicians reporting burnout has slightly decreased since 2022. The KLAS authors suggested that this is likely due to healthcare organizations implementing programs to mitigate burnout, such as groups that promote community and burnout reduction initiatives led by chief wellness officers. Still, clinician burnout levels remain higher than pre-pandemic rates of burnout.

Physicians and nurses experiencing symptoms of clinician burnout report multiple contributors, with staffing shortages as the largest contributor.

Generally, the most common burnout contributors relate to inefficiencies, such as a lack of control over workloads or an EHR platform impeding efficiency, or they relate to a clinician’s sense of belonging, such as a lack of shared values with leadership.

Additionally, clinician burnout factors often impact one another, the report authors said.

“When there aren’t enough staff members to support patients, physicians and nurses must shoulder a greater workload that can persist after hours, making it difficult to escape work stressors,” they wrote.

Notably, clinicians cite the EHR significantly less often than other burnout contributors. While physicians are more likely to mention the EHR as a burnout contributor than nurses, EHR use doesn’t inherently lead to burnout. In fact, the report pointed out that the EHR can help mitigate burnout by improving efficiency and reducing duplicative tasks.

“Burnout contributors are easier to manage when physicians and nurses are experiencing early levels of burnout, rather than full burnout,” the authors wrote.

To help address clinician burnout in its early stages, health systems can focus on driving efficiency by providing additional EHR training and supporting health IT personalization.

Addressing later-stage clinician burnout is still possible by realigning leadership’s values with clinicians’ and changing the organizational culture to be more inclusive of clinician feedback.

The report emphasized that when mitigating late-stage burnout, the role of health system leadership is especially important. Previous KLAS research shows a correlation between strong IT delivery and reduced clinician burnout. When providers perceive their IT team as partners who effectively reduce inefficiency, trust grows, and burnout lessens, the report noted.

Both physicians and nurses said the top way to alleviate burnout is to improve staffing, which includes decreasing expected workloads and hiring more staff.

The second most-mentioned way to alleviate burnout for providers is better-aligned leadership, the report found.

“Many respondents say they need their leadership team to listen to and acknowledge concerns, and some worry their leaders are starting to focus more on finances than on their staff or even their patients,” the authors wrote.

The third most-mentioned way to address burnout differs between physicians and nurses; physicians want enhanced EHR efficiency, while nurses want better pay.

In terms of EHR efficiency, physicians (and some nurses) said they are increasingly doing more work with fewer resources. If healthcare organizations are unable to hire more staff to distribute the workload, they can instead ensure clinicians receive sufficient EHR education and that their workflows are optimized.

Regarding pay, nurses (and some physicians) said that increased pay would help retain staff members.

“Many nurses who have worked at their organizations for a long time believe they are less valued than contracted or travel nurses, who—despite working only temporarily at the organization—receive greater pay,” the report explained.

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