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Thirty-six billion dollars and over a decade later, the HITECH Act signed by President Obama to motivate the implementation of electronic health records (EHR) in the U.S. created some unintended consequences. The goal of increasing EHR adoption by physicians, whether it be in the hospital, ambulatory or medical practice settings that they work in, has largely been achieved, with nearly 90% adoption across these settings. The goal of moving from paper records to digitizing the medical record by physician documentation of the patient encounter through the EHR is another return on this investment.
Additionally, physicians use EHRs to order billions of dollars of laboratory tests, diagnostic imaging exams and medications for their patients every year. The EHR is streamlining these processes for both patients and clinicians, as well as allowing for closed-loop integration of the results back into the EHR to create a holistic picture of a patient’s visit. One could argue that EHRs created the digital foundation and that Covid was a catalyst for the aggressive adoption of digital health applications today, including virtual care, patient apps, remote monitoring devices and more.
The Challenge: Physician Burnout
However, despite the progress in EHR adoption, there has been a serious negative, unintended consequence from using an EHR: physician burnout. Several academic studies analyzed the phenomenon and one study by the Mayo Clinic concluded that physicians now spend one to two hours on EHRs and desk work for every hour spent in direct face-to-face contact with patients, as well as an additional one to two hours of personal time on EHR-related activities outside of office hours. The study evaluated the usability of current EHR systems and concluded that there is a strong relationship between EHR usability and higher odds of burnout — current EHR systems received a grade of “F” by physician users when evaluated using a standardized metric of technology usability.
The American Medical Association stated, “It is a national…