The amount of time spent on after-hours EHR documentation is one of the main factors driving clinicians’ burnout. Clinicians’ specialty, gender, region and organizational structure are the four main factors determining how much time they spend on this after-hours work, according to study results released Jan. 25 by EHR company Athenahealth.
This new research from athenahealth on the time clinicians spend documenting in the EHR finds that the ongoing stressors of the pandemic and a critical staffing shortage make now a more important time than ever to address the related factors that are likely to impact clinicians’ satisfaction and wellbeing.
The research team analyzed 8.1 million hours of active EHR work completed by 14,520 clinicians using Athenahealth software over a five-month period in the first half of 2021.
Four major issues were highlighted by the research team:
1. Healthcare organizations requiring more complex documentation have clinicians who spend more time in the EHR, both during and outside patient hours. These organizations tend to be larger and have more detailed policies on charting, as well as a more varied mix of payer contracts and fee structures, according to the study.
2. The weekly number of hours a clinician spends in the EHR varies by specialty. The study found adult primary care clinicians spend the most time in the EHR per week, followed by neurologists. Mental Health clinicians are not far behind in the number of hours.
3. Female and male clinicians spend the same amount of time cumulatively on EHR documentation per week. However, female clinicians spend more time on documentation on a per-patient basis, scheduling an average of 60 visits per week, compared with their male counterparts, who schedule an average of 73. Gender differences in documentation minutes per visit is at least 20 percent across most clinician specialties, according to the study.
4. Given female clinicians’ likelihood to spend more time in the EHR and the more equal clinician gender ratio in New England and the Middle Atlantic, clinicians in the Northeast spend more time on EHR documentation than other regions in the U.S.
One major difference between specialties is in the number of patient visits they schedule each week. Despite data showing that orthopedic surgeons schedule the most patients weekly, they spend the least amount of time in the EHR as compared to other top specialties. Mental health clinicians see the fewest patients, as they tend to have longer, more conversational encounters that are one-on-one.
Determining the reasons why burnout is correlated with specialty may ultimately lead to how to solve – or at least better address – some of healthcare’s most pressing challenges. The volume of quality measures that clinicians must meet if their organizations are involved in risk-based contracts can vary widely. Primary care physicians, for instance, typically have more quality measures to account for versus orthopedists. Other factors contributing both to EHR time and burnout include regional market competition and gender, for instance.
This new research from Athenahealth on the time clinicians spend documenting in the EHR finds that the ongoing stressors of the pandemic and a critical staffing shortage make now a more important time than ever to address the related factors that are likely to impact clinicians’ satisfaction and wellbeing.