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Excessive Documentation, Staffing Challenges Driving Clinician Burnout

More than half of physicians surveyed noted that staffing challenges, including retention and shortages, contribute to clinician burnout.

Excessive EHR documentation requirements and staffing challenges are significant contributors to clinician burnout, according to an athenahealth survey conducted by the Harris Poll.

The findings are based on a sample of 743 physicians across specialties who completed an online survey in January 2022. The researchers also conducted 15 qualitative interviews with survey respondents.

Two-thirds (66 percent) of physicians say that data exchange within their EHR network is easy, but only 24 percent say the same about data sharing outside their EHRs.

Poor interoperability adds to physicians' already challenging work environment – 80 percent of respondents said the inability to share data between information systems increases stress levels.

When asked about significant hurdles to improving connectivity, physicians noted a lack of coordination among different healthcare organizations (65 percent), a lack of desire among EHR vendors (61 percent), cost (59 percent), and poor data standardization (57 percent).  

Nine in 10 physicians reported that enhanced connectivity between EHR systems could boost patient outcomes (94 percent) and the overall clinician experience (91 percent).

However, advancements in technology and better access to data present a double-edged sword for providers, according to the survey.

Many physicians reported that while health IT enhances their relationship with patients and helps them manage their workload, they are also overwhelmed by the volume of data they receive at times.

Fifty-nine percent of physicians reported frustration with clinical data access on a weekly basis, and 58 percent said they often feel so overloaded with information that it increases their stress.

"Sometimes my EHR gives me an encyclopedia and all I really need is a dictionary," one respondent said.

The survey also found that healthcare is not immune to the hiring challenges facing most industries, with a resounding 80 percent of physicians reporting they face talent shortages within their organization.

As healthcare organizations deal with the staffing crisis and COVID-19's lingering impact, physicians noted that patient volumes have also increased, adding more stress to their work environments.

Sixty-eight percent of respondents reported feeling rushed on a weekly basis and not having enough time with patients. Respondents also cited the time management pinch as a significant cause of physician dissatisfaction.

Unsurprisingly, almost all respondents reported signs of burnout – 92 percent of physicians reported one or more issues that make them feel burned out regularly.

According to the survey findings, the leading causes of burnout include excessive documentation requirements (57 percent) and staffing challenges, including retention, shortages, and finding qualified talent (51 percent).

Physicians also pointed out that regulatory and administrative burdens contribute to burnout. Ninety-one percent of respondents said the burden of regulatory requirements is worsening, and 72 percent said they do not believe their organization is set up to minimize the time they spend on administrative tasks.

As a result of the numerous pressures on healthcare professionals, physicians are divided on where the industry is headed – 52 percent said they are pessimistic about the future of healthcare in America and only 48 percent expressed optimism.  

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