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athenahealth Launches EHR Coding Solution to Mitigate Clinician Burnout

An athenahealth client observed a 50 percent decline in clinician coding time after implementing the EHR coding solution.

athenahealth has announced the launch of athenaOne Medical Coding solution, an EHR coding solution that the vendor said could mitigate clinician coding-related work and ultimately reduce clinician burnout.

According to a recent study, clinician burnout impacts up to 80.5 percent of clinicians, with an average of 44 percent of clinicians experiencing burnout. Clinician burnout also costs health systems between about $250,000 and $1 million per clinician who quits.

More specifically, a clinician averages roughly 90 minutes of coding work after-hours, according to athenahealth. The vendor said this tool would allow clinicians to spend more time with patients and focus on higher-value work.

athenahealth integrated this feature to ease claim submissions by gaining access to certified coding support specialists who conduct accurate and timely medical coding. When utilizing the integrated solution, the user and the vendor’s medical coders can communicate directly through the EHR interface.

Village Pediatrics, a Seattle-based pediatrics primary care practice, leveraged the solution and observed a 50 percent decrease in clinician coding time. The practice noted streamlined integration and increased billable codes.

“I can see all the notes in one spot. I can communicate things when I send the claim—send notes for extensive visits, for instance,” said Staci Scott, ARNP, Village Pediatrics. “And if the coders have questions, communication is so much easier and more streamlined now.”

According to athenahealth, the solution is backed by a quality assurance program and it has a streamlined integration process.

A recent JAMIA study reported health IT and EHR optimization as one of three critical ways to mitigate clinician burnout.

“Arguably, the primary drivers of burnout for physicians have been related to electronic health records and overwhelming inefficiencies in clinical practice that significantly and negatively impact workflow and patient care,” wrote the study authors. “Physicians experience high fatigue with short, continuous periods of EHR use, which is also associated with inefficiency of EHR use (ie, more clicks and more time) on subsequent cases.”

Because EHR design and usability are both leading causes for clinician burden, the study authors conducted a systematic review of multiple databases in 2018 and 2020 to identify potential workplace interventions to mitigate burnout. While many researchers have assessed the cause of burnout in the past, there’s been little evidence about mitigation strategies.

Overall, 68 percent of nearly 5,000 pieces of literature reported decreased clinician burnout after HER optimization, training courses, cutting EHR documentation requirements; expanding the care team, and leveraging the quality improvement processes in the workflows.

“The impact of digital technologies on how physicians spend their time has been shown to affect multiple key domains including productivity and revenue, job and patient satisfaction, and personal well-being,” wrote the study authors.

Every study identified showed EHR and health IT optimization improved clinician burnout rates and usability. However, EHR adoption and implementation had little impact or added to clinician burnout. The researchers found there are strong justifications for healthcare organizations to optimize EHR usability and documentation for accurate use cases.

“Until the arrival of policy reform, practical and effective workflow interventions should be leveraged to reduce excessive data entry by the physician,” concluded the study authors.

“Interventions designed to optimize technologies, training, and workflows may shift physician burnout to resilience.”

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