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EHR Use Less Likely to Cause Clinician Burnout, COVID-19 Is the Culprit

A new KLAS report found that non-EHR-related factors are the main contributors to a rise in clinician burden post-COVID-19.

While EHRs were once noted as a top contributor to clinician burnout, nurses’ chaotic work environments and after-hours workloads are driving an increase in burnout in the midst of COVID-19, according to a KLAS research report.

Before COVID-19 began, the percentage of clinicians reporting some degree of burnout was consistently about 25 percent. Post-pandemic, that number has climbed to approximately one-third.

A large portion of that increase can be attributed to COVID-19. As of Q4 2021, almost 20 percent of clinicians who report at least some level of burnout cite COVID-19 as a top contributor.

Not only is burnout increasing, but the rate of increase has accelerated in 2021 as well. The report authors hypothesized that the rise of the Delta variant is likely a factor in this acceleration; from Q2 to Q3 2021—as the Delta variant was ramping up—data shows a sharp rise in the number of providers linking burnout to COVID-19.

Many other top contributors to clinician burnout are mentioned with more frequency now than before the start of the pandemic. During 2021 specifically, all contributing factors to clinician burnout have increased in frequency, and the rate of increase has accelerated.

In the past six months, nurses have reported the largest changes; every contributor to burnout is now reported by a larger percentage of nurses compared to earlier in 2021.

The burnout contributors that increased most since the start of the pandemic are different for physicians and nurses. Physicians are increasingly likely to attribute clinician burnout to a chaotic work environment, while nurses are now more likely to blame after-hours workloads than they were before COVID-19.

Increased burnout among nurses caused by after-hours workload is particularly worrisome as it may be tied to how likely nurses are to stay with their current organization, the report authors noted. Generally, clinician turnover is highly correlated with burnout; providers who report any level of burnout are 68 percent less likely to report that they will stay at their organization.

KLAS data shows that since the start of COVID-19, the share of nurses who say they are likely to leave their organization within the next two years has increased. This rise is larger than the increase observed for other clinician roles, and it has worsened even in just the last six months, going from about 20 percent to 25 percent.

The correlation between clinician burnout contributors and the severity of burnout has also increased. For physicians, there are a few contributors that are now more indicative of a higher degree of burnout: after-hours workload, personal control over workload, number of bureaucratic tasks, and chaotic workplace.

Since the pandemic began, EHR-related contributors have become less potent indicators of the severity of a nurse’s burnout. This means that much of the increase in nurse burnout is being caused by other, non-EHR-related factors.

“This is not surprising given that nurses have been on the front lines of the pandemic, dealing with chaotic work environments, loss of control over their work conditions, and increased workloads that spill over into their personal time,” KLAS officials explai

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