Lack of Interoperability Between EHR Systems Fuels Physician Burnout

Physician burnout has many causes. From long hours to compassion fatigue, there’s no shortage of reasons why physicians find themselves worn down. An additional root? The lack of interoperability between various EHR systems.

So what does this mean for physicians? And how can EHR providers take some of the burden off of their clients shoulders?

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Problems Caused by Physician Burnout

The healthcare industry has one of the highest reported rate of burnout—nearly two-thirds of U.S. physicians report feeling burned out, depressed, or both. One in three cite these feelings as making it more difficult to relate to patients and colleagues. This feeling of burnout can cause decreasing work-ethic, a sense of exhaustion, and deep personal dissatisfaction. In turn, not only will professional relationships suffer, but personal ones as well, which can result in compassion fatigue, depression, or other severe emotional imbalances.

And there are other consequences to physician burnout as well—financial ones. Research has shown a strong link between higher levels of physician burnout and lower levels of patient safety and quality of care, all of which negatively affect a physician’s bottom line.

RELATED: Physician Burnout: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

EHR’S Contribution to Physician Burnout

But how does an EHR system contribute to physician burnout?

According to Niki Buchanan, general manager of population health management at Philips Health, meaningful use is the reason behind the problem. The lack of a standard set of rules regarding interoperability across various EHR systems makes it difficult for physicians to use and effectively communicate across disparate systems. “There were some positive intentions when meaningful use started,” she says. “The HITECH Act was a good thing that happened for healthcare, but it didn’t bring with it all of the standardization you should have in place. So for years and years, when the dollars were flowing into health systems to have them implement an EHR, the systems all had different business goals and things they were good at.”

So what’s the solution?

Consolidation, with interoperability in mind. Some providers have already developed technologies that allows for disparate systems to communicate with one another, which reduces stress and responsibility on physicians. These technologies—and eventual full interoperability—will allow physicians to focus on their true goal: effective, efficient, and thoughtful patient care.

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