Writing shorter notes for EHRs may help prevent physician burnout

Researchers are encouraging physicians to write shorter notes for electronic health records (EHRs) in order to avoid burnout, according to a recent article published in the August edition of the American Journal of Medicine.

In the article, researchers looked at the potential causes of physician burnout, which is typically characterized by feeling a lack of accomplishment, cynicism and loss of enthusiasm for work.

According to a survey cited in the article, from 2011 to 2014 physician burnout increased significantly from 45.5 percent to 54.4 percent. During those same periods, physicians who said they had a healthy work-life balance dropped from 48.5 percent to 40.9 percent.

Researchers also noted that between 2011 and 2014 the following five major transformational medical practice events occurred: pervasive hospital purchases of medical groups, rising drug prices, the Affordable Care Act, pay-for-performance and mandated EHRs.

However, researchers argued EHRs are the most likely contributor to physician burnout between the listed factors.

“The hours spent cloning notes in a mandated doctor-computer relationship leaves the physician unable to experience the best part of being a doctor. No humanistic physician gets up with zeal in the morning, hopeful for a chance to have a meaningful relationship with Epic or MEDITECH,” the article said. “Rational people should feel cynical if the institutional accomplishment for the day is to produce 20 cloned medical records with enough federally mandated bullet-point entries to obtain fair reimbursement and survive a billing audit.”

The article also said that Epic notes by U.S. doctors are “vastly longer” than notes written by European doctors. Additionally, the article encouraged physicians to keep a close eye on new medical practices—like EHRs—to ensure they don’t distance them from their patients.  

Researchers also offered several tips for EHR note taking. They said doctors should type less and spend less time staring at a screen, prepare notes while with patients and use a scribe when available.

“Make your notes meaningful, and never make your EHR more important than your patients,” the article said. “Demand more productive voice recognition-linked diagnostic EHRs in the future.”