Simpler EMRs Lower Physician Stress

Posted on September 23, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

When it comes to EMRs, simpler may be better, according to a new study. 

Researchers have concluded that doctors who use EMRs with a moderate number of functions are more stressed out and have a lower level of job satisfaction than those who use EMRs with fewer functions.

The study also suggested that doctors who used highly functioning EMRs are especially challenged providing care if they feel the time allowed to do so isn’t adequate.

The study, which was reported in Healthcare Informatics magazine, originally appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. In the study, researchers examined variables including doctor-reported stress, burnout, satisfaction and intent to leave the practice, then used these variables to compare decisions before and after EMR systems were implemented.

To gauge how physicians react to EMR features, the study authors looked at 379 primary care physicians, along with 92 managers at 92 clinics from New York City and the upper Midwest.

The physicians and managers were participating in the Minimizing Error, Maximizing Outcome study, a 2001 – 2005 study assessing relationships between the structure and culture of the primary care workplace, physician stress and burnout, and the quality of care experienced by their patients, Healthcare Informatics reported.

The researchers actually found the job stress went down slightly for physicians using sophisticated EMR system compared to physicians with moderately complex EMRs. However, time pressure during examinations was more highly associated with adverse physician outcomes in the high EMR function group, the study authors wrote.

It’s worth remembering, however, that EMR complexity isn’t the only factor which determines how comfortable physicians are with their system.

Ultimately, seeing to it that doctors are comfortable with EMR features and functions before they’re installed and set in stone is the best way to see to their satisfaction, according to health IT expert Mark Olschesky.