EHRs, hectic work environment drive family doctors' burnout

A doctor at a desk holding up his hand to say stop
EHRs contribute to burnout for many doctors, according to a new survey. (Medioimages/Photodisc)

Workplace factors like electronic health records and a hectic environment are major factors for family physicians with job burnout, according to a new survey.

A study team led by researchers at the University of Michigan and the American Board of Family Medicine surveyed more than 1,700 family doctors and found that a quarter reported symptoms of burnout. Those exhausted docs experienced far higher rates of stressful workplace conditions than physicians without burnout, according to a research letter published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

More than 60% of the doctors with burnout reported spending excessive amounts of time with EHRs at home, while only about 39% of those without burnout said the same. While the researchers didn’t conclude that EHR-related factors were more linked to burnout than other factors examined, a lack of time to document needed data was notable.

"This disproportionate time documenting may decrease the potentially protective benefits of patient contact," the researchers wrote.

The findings are in line with previous studies that suggest EHRs contribute significantly to physicians’ clerical workload and can increase burnout and stress.

Related: Study: EHRs bloat clerical workload for docs

In addition to frustration with EHRs, the doctors with burnout were more likely to say they worked in a hectic environment or that they had high levels of job-related stress. About 57% of those with symptoms of burnout said they worked in a chaotic atmosphere, compared with about 26% of those without burnout. More than 90% of doctors with burnout reported high amounts of stress on the job, compared with about 38% of those without symptoms.

Related: No easy answers to physician burnout