AMA calls EHR fixes a 'national imperative' after doctors give 'F' for usability

Doctor pausing with a frown on his face
Poor usability of EHRs is linked to higher physician burnout, according to new research. (Getty/Wavebreakmedia)

When it comes to usability, doctors give electronic health record (EHR) systems an “F”.

And that poor usability correlates with physician burnout, according to a study published today in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Researchers surveyed 870 U.S. physicians about EHRs and asked them to rank system usability with a score of 0 to 100. The mean score was 45.9, which is in the “not acceptable” range or a grade of an 'F', the study said.

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Researchers also measured physician burnout and found a strong relationship between EHR usability and the odds a doctor also reported burnout. For every point in EHR usability, there was a link to 3% lower odds of physician burnout.

“The findings will not come as a surprise to anyone who practices medicine,” said Patrice A. Harris, M.D., president of the American Medical Association (AMA), which collaborated on the study.

Given the new research, the AMA said it is a “national imperative” to overhaul the design and use of EHRs. The study shows that EHRs as currently designed, implemented and regulated, lack usability, making the systems hard to use compared to other technologies, Harris said in a statement.

RELATED: Primary care doctors spend more than 50% of workday on EHR tasks, American Medical Association study finds

“Too many physicians have experienced the demoralizing effects of cumbersome EHRs that interfere with providing first-rate medical care to patients,” Harris said

“It is a national imperative to overhaul the design and use of EHRs and reframe the technology to focus primarily on its most critical function—helping physicians care for their patients,” Harris said. The AMA is working to ensure a new generation of EHRs that don’t overload physicians with type-and-click tasks, she said.

RELATED: Industry Voices—It's time to light a fire to stop physician burnout, starting with better EHRs

The study was co-written by AMA leaders along with burnout researchers at Yale, Mayo Clinic and Stanford.

An earlier AMA study found that physicians spend as much as two hours on EHR work for every one hour they spend delivering patient care. A separate study released earlier this year found first-year residents, or interns, spend nearly 90% of their work time away from patients, half of which is spent interacting with EHRs and documentation.

Nearly half of U.S. doctors exhibit at least one symptom of physician burnout, a problem that has some physicians cutting back on time spent in practicing medicine or forcing them out of the field. A study this year found a startling 79% of primary care physicians say they have experienced burn out.

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