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Doctors Work 2 Hours on EHR Tasks For Every 1 Hour of Time With Patients – Are You OK With That?

Posted on December 10, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Wayne Crandall, President & CEO of NoteSwift.

At NoteSwift, we’re passionate about providing clinicians with the tools and workflow support they need so they can focus on delivering great care to their patients. It’s become increasingly clear over the past few years that EHR workflows are a big frustration for many doctors. This leads us to today’s question:

As a healthcare industry, are we satisfied with a system that forces clinicians to spend two hours inputting and completing EHR records for every one hour of actual time with patients? Is this the kind of health care we aspire to provide?

In thinking about this topic, I’m reminded of a blog I read a couple years ago which passionately addressed the issue of EHR time burdens from the perspective of a physician. Hear the passion in the author’s voice, and consider the tips and workflow adjustments he’s been forced to adopt in order to minimize the time they spend in EHR work.

The author calls the amount of time many EHRs require a “national disgrace” because it pulls doctors away from time with patients. We hear this story from nearly every clinician we talk to — it’s painful and frustrating to train for years to care for patients, yet feel forced to spend most of the day typing notes and clicking EHR check boxes.

A recent white paper looking at studies across the industry backs up this frustration with even more data. Doctors today are forced to spend two hours on EHR entry for every one hour of patient care. This EHR time burden is directly connected to the increase in physician burnout being reported across nearly every physician specialty. You can access this white paper here.

I believe it’s our obligation as an industry to continue improving our EHR workflows to better serve clinicians working on the front line of health care and who need more time to build relationships with patients, not EHR workflows.

At NoteSwift, we believe there is no reason for a clinician to spend 2 hours manually completing an EHR record, and we are working on exciting A.I. solutions to reduce the time doctors spend in their EHRs. Our solution, Samantha, the real-time EHR transcriptionist, allows clinicians to dictate the patient narrative one time; from there, powerful A.I. parses the narrative, creates structured data elements, adds those elements across the entire EHR, and offers the clinician a review screen to finalize the note. The entire process is automated, accurate, and efficient.

The author ends his blog with the following sentence: “Every day on my way into work I make a conscious decision to do everything possible to spend face-to-face time with patients.” I think this is a great mantra for doctors to adopt, and it’s the responsibility of all of us in health care to continue improving our EHR workflows to make better patient care a reality.

To receive your complimentary copy of this white paper, “Physician Burnout By The Numbers,” click here. You’ll receive instant access to the paper as a resource for you and your team.

About Wayne Crandall
Wayne Crandall’s career in technology spans sales, marketing, product management, strategic development and operations. Wayne was a co-founder, executive officer, and senior vice president of sales, marketing and business development at Nuance Communications and was responsible for growing the company to over $120M following the acquisition of Dragon and SpeechWorks.

Prior to joining the NoteSwift team, Wayne was President and CEO of CYA Technologies and then took over as President of enChoice, which specialized in ECM systems and services, when they purchased CYA.

Wayne joined NoteSwift, Inc. at its inception, working with founder Dr. Chris Russell to build the team from the ground up. Wayne has continued to guide the company’s growth and evolution, resulting in the development of the industry’s first AI-powered EHR Virtual Assistant, Samantha(TM).

NoteSwift is the leading provider of EHR Virtual Assistants and a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene.

Physician Revolt Against EHRs – Unlikely to Happen

Posted on August 20, 2018 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Physicians hate EHRs.

Yes, there are a few exceptions, but it’s pretty rare to find a physician that loves their EHR. There are a fair number of them that are apathetic towards their EHR, but there are a lot of doctors who hate them.

How much do they hate them? That’s hard to say, but it seems clear that they don’t hate them enough to really change things. Sure, they’ll leave some comments on message boards, send out some tweets or write some blogs, but they don’t seem ready to take it to the board (even when they’re the board). The most common path is doctors hate the EHR when it’s first implemented and then they learn the EHR software and become apathetic.

Clay Forsberg recently laid out the strategy for doctors who hate their EHR and want change:

Clay makes a great point. He then extends the discussion with these tweets:

The real problem here is that EHRs are the epitome of “meh.” They get in the way, but it’s hard to draw a specific line between EHR software and deaths or really poor quality care. They cause some time issues with multiple logins and lots of clicks, but they also save time in other ways. They have some bad workflows, but they make some workflows better.

EHRs are just good enough to avoid a revolt.

Plus, a doctor replying to Clay Forsberg’s tweet above identified another issue:

Doctors definitely don’t want to risk their livelihood, but I think even more than that they don’t think that complaints about the EHR are going to have any impact. This is particularly true in large health systems. As Clay Forsberg points out, one voice will likely fall on deaf ears. It would take a coordinated effort to really effect change.

I’d also add that the problem I’ve seen with those doctors that are complaining about EHR software aren’t doing it in a productive manner. It’s almost like these people are arguing that we should go back to paper. Let’s be honest. That’s not going to happen. Plus, they don’t acknowledge how much they hated paper either. Think about something as simple as a missing chart and that usually refreshes some of the memories. Let alone the stacks of paper charts on physician’s desks that still needed to be completed.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that EHRs couldn’t do a lot more to make physicians’ lives easier. There’s also a ton of poorly optimized EHR implementations that are driving doctors crazy. Those are fixable even if many doctors don’t realize that there are solutions out there. It’s important to realize that both are issues, but are addressed very differently.

At the end of the day, doctors can complain about EHR software until their blue in the face, but EHRs aren’t going anywhere. We’re not going back to paper and I don’t see an alternative to them coming soon. That said, a physician revolt against EHRs would make them better and that would be a great thing for everyone involved. I just don’t see enough doctors ready to revolt. Do you? If so, I’d love to hear what they’re doing.

EMR and EHR Angst

Posted on March 21, 2018 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I thought it was time to do another Twitter roundup and as I started searching for interesting tweets I came up with a theme: EMR and EHR angst. I’m sure if you use an EHR in your practice, then you’re familiar with this subject. The following tweets illustrated some of the angst that exists out there.

I love the term algorithm monster that we get from John. I wonder if he’d feel different if the algorithm monster was able to improve patient care and not just maximize reimbursement.

Jeremy offers a more rosy view of EMR. Although he still has angst that many people are treating the EHR as the end game as opposed to a foundational piece that’s required to get to the benefits that so many desire. I think many are just tired of the promises that never materialized.

Leave it to the Gomer blog to add some humor to the situtation. Unless you’re the one that far behind on your charts. Then, it’s not quite so funny.

Two Medical Practices’ Reactions to MACRA Ruining Healthcare

Posted on January 31, 2018 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Last week I wrote a post that discussed whether MACRA was ruining Healthcare. It’s an important discussion to have as we look at where healthcare IT legislation should go in the future.

In response to the article I got some pretty heated responses from medical practices that I thought were worth sharing with the wider audience who doesn’t get a chance to read the comments (yeah, I know that’s most of you).

The first comment is from Billy who said the following:

I wouldn’t say MACRA is ruining healthcare, but it’s starting to drive the decision train, which may be the first step.

From my corner of healthcare in America, our practice is forcing adherence to MACRA to set the tone for an ever growing portion of the workflow. The benefit from such is viewed as non-existent aside from protecting revenues. We have compliant doctors (with plenty of grumblings), but no happy ones that are doing this in the belief it’s good for medicine.

Taking two parts of your post I think I can speak towards in view of that…

“All of this leaves doctors I know upset with MACRA and MIPS. They wish it would go away and that the government would stop being so involved in their practice.”

They’re upset at the government because MACRA is seen as an intrusion with no benefit. At best, it’s a threat to their income (both to the business and their end of year salary), and at worst, they don’t trust the government entering the realm of “quality” which traditionally was limited to clinical relevancy. We’ve had plenty of internal discussions of how MACRA quality measures are worlds away from what the physicians view as truly important quality measures for their profession.

“Let’s imagine for a minute that Congress was functional enough to pass a law that would get rid of all of MACRA. Then what? Would doctor’s problems be solved?”

This doesn’t account for the primary reason MACRA was passed in the first place- controlling the costs of Medicare. They can talk about quality all they want, the government needed to eliminate the near automatic 2.5% (or thereabouts) increase in Medicare fee reimbursements. They do that with the freeze in rate increases, and making the physicians battle each other for what remains with the reward/penalty system.

Congress will never get rid of MACRA, it’s their plan to keep Medicare costs from blowing up until 2025 as the boomer generation keeps adding to the rolls.

So, MACRA is seen as having no benefit but a lot of downside in income and daily operations. About the only other thing that could have brought these emotions about would come from the IRS, but this is worse in some ways, as it’s forcing changes in clinical operations for the purpose of checking a box to protect income.

Welcome to the new normal.

It’s hard to think that Billy is right that this is the new normal. Should it be? Could we do something to make it so it’s not?

The next comment was from a long time reader who’s been commenting against MACRA and meaningful use before that (ie. a long time). Here’s meltoots’ take on the question of if MACRA is ruining healthcare:

Count me as another mid career MD that sees the futility in any hope for the future of medicine. We are doomed. I do everything I can to talk everyone out of becoming an MD. Including my children.

We have 100% of the accountability and zero authority. Worse I am penalized by our government because I refuse to play stupid counting and clicking games. I was just discussing again (seems daily) my plans to exit this career. Too bad as I am one of only 4 orthopaedic surgeons left at our hospital. 20 years ago we had 35 on staff.

Every single person on earth seems to be saying all this data entry by MDs is silly, inefficient, useless, complex and frankly a huge costly waste of time. Everyone is speaking to burdens and the ridiculous nature of all this forced mindless data entry, super complex reporting, terrible auditing and penalizing for no good reason. When we look back a decade from now and wonder how we made medicine like the postal service, I know I can say I did try to point out better ways. But no one listened. At all.

If all these programs are so wonderful, tell me all the great things that have come out of MU, PQRS, VBM, QPP? So you got MDs to buy EHRs. Great. Everyone hates them. Great work.

HITECH set back real IT innovation in medicine at least a decade.

CMS touts patents over paperwork with absolutely no action, even worse, they made the MACRA program even more burdensome this year. AAPM, you want me to take even MORE risk, and hire more admins to run it? For 5%? Come on.

I have finally come to realization, that medicine has been destroyed by administrators, CMS /ONC, regulators, bean counters and the dozens of people I support just trying to stay ahead of the complexity. Its like the movie Office Space when I forget to click something in the 1000 clicks I have to do a day, I get 10 admins telling me about my TPS reports on what I did wrong.

What is really the worst part, is that I am pretty darned good at what I do, I am super busy and loaded with patients, too many. So I will be yet another MD, that has just had enough, that left the game in his prime. We should all be ashamed at what we did to our physicians.

Burnout is Overused and Under Defined

Posted on December 8, 2017 I Written By

When Carl Bergman isn't rooting for the Washington Nationals or searching for a Steeler bar, he’s Managing Partner of the last dozen years, he’s concentrated on EHR consulting and writing. He spent the 80s and 90s as an itinerant project manager doing his small part for the dot com bubble. Prior to that, Bergman served a ten year stretch in the District of Columbia government as a policy and fiscal analyst, a role he recently repeated for a Council member.

Recently, John hosted a #HITsm chat on using technology to fight physician burnout (Read the full transcript from the chat here). The topic’s certainly timely, and it got me to wondering just what is physician burnout. Now, the simple answer is fatigue. However, when I started to look around for studies and insights, I realized that burnout is neither easily defined nor understood.

The Mayo Clinic, among others, defines it this way:

Job burnout is a special type of job stress — a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work. 

So, it is fatigue plus self doubt. Well, that’s for starters. Burnout has its own literature niche and psychologists have taken several different cracks at a more definitive definition without any consensus other than it’s a form of depression, which doesn’t have to be work related.

Unsurprisingly, burnout is not in the DSM-5. It’s this lack of a clinical definition, which makes it easy to use burnout like catsup to cover a host of issues. I think this is exactly why we have so many references to physician or EHR burnout. You can use burnout to cover whatever you want.

It’s easy to find articles citing EHRs and burnout. For example, a year ago April, The Hospitalist headlined, “Research Shows Link Between EHR and Physician Burnout.” The article then flatly says, “The EHR has been identified as a major contributor to physician burnout.” However, it never cites a study to back this up.

If you track back through its references, you’ll wind up at a 2013 AMA study, “Factors Affecting Physician Professional Satisfaction and Their Implications for Patient Care, Health Systems, and Health Policy.” Developed by the Rand Corporation, it’s an extensive study of physician job satisfaction. Unfortunately, for those who cite it for EHR and burnout, it never links the two. In fact, the article never discusses the two together.

Not surprisingly, burnout has found its way into marketing. For example, DataMatrix says:

Physician burnout can be described as a public health crisis especially with the substantial increase over the last couple of years. The consequences are significant and affect the healthcare system by affecting the quality of care, health care costs and patient safety.

Their solution, of course, is to buy their transcription services.

What’s happened here is that physician work life dissatisfaction has been smushed together with burnout, which does a disservice to both. For example, Medscape recently published a study on burnout, which asked physicians about their experience. Interestingly, the choices it gave, such as low income, too many difficult patients – difficult being undefined — are all over the place.

That’s not to say that all physician burnout studies are useless. A recent study, Electronic Health Record Effects on Work-Life Balance and Burnout Within the I3 Population Collaborative, used a simple, five item scale to ask physicians how they viewed their work life. See Figure 1.

Figure 1 Single-Item Burnout Scale.

Their findings were far more nuanced than many others. EHRs played a role, but so did long hours. They found:

EHR proficiency training has been associated with improved job satisfaction and work-life balance.14 While increasing EHR proficiency may help, there are many potential reasons for physicians to spend after-hours on the EHR, including time management issues, inadequate clinic staffing, patient complexity, lack of scribes, challenges in mastering automatic dictation systems, cosigning resident notes, messaging, and preparing records for the next day. All of these issues and their impact on burnout and work-life balance are potential areas for future research.

There’s a need to back off the burnout rhetoric. Burnout’s overused and under defined. It’s a label for what may be any number of underlying issues. Subsuming these into one general, glitzy term, which lacks clinical definition trivializes serious problems. The next time you see something defined as physician or EHR burnout, you might just ask yourself, what is that again?