UCSF CMIO says physician burnout predated EHRs

A doctor at a desk holding up his hand to say stop
USCF's CMIO says EHRs exacerbated already problematic documentation issues (Medioimages/Photodisc)

Doctors—and even the government’s top health officials—have frequently blamed EHRs for driving physicians out of the profession.

But one informatics executive says burnout traces back to more deeply rooted issues associated with documentation. During a town hall panel at Medicine 3.0, Michael Blum, M.D., the chief medical information officer at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, said physicians started becoming more dissatisfied 10 to 15 years ago when increased regulation turned their notes into a billing document.

“It became the thing that you bill from and the thing that was going to keep you out of trouble when someone came to look at what you were doing,” he told the audience, according to Medscape. “Then you threw the EHR on top of that and made a bad situation horribly worse.”

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Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has repeatedly lamented the impact EHRs have had on physician satisfaction, arguing that Meaningful Use regulations were the “final straw” that led some physicians to quit. As a result, improving EHR usability is a key focus area for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

Blum also noted that the healthcare industry is particularly excited about the promise of artificial intelligence in part because physicians have had more involvement in that process since they have access to large patient data sets.

“We're creating these partnerships that are clinical partnerships with industry to build these things, not waiting for industry to give them to us and tell us to go use them,” he said.