The New England Journal of Medicine shares this perspective about how to help doctors stop burning out — suggesting that the electronic medical record (EMR) and the ever-increasing clerical workload are to blame for burning out doctors:

Increasing clerical burden is one of the biggest drivers of burnout in medicine. Time-motion studies show that for every hour physicians spend with patients, they spend one to two more hours finishing notes, documenting phone calls, ordering tests, reviewing results, responding to patient requests, prescribing medications, and communicating with staff.1 Little of this work is currently reimbursed. Instead, it is done in the interstices of life, during time often referred to as “work after work” — at night, on weekends, even on vacation.

One innovation called APEX (ambulatory process excellence) has reduced burnout has by basically making another person responsible for the data collection during visits:

“The chaos in exam rooms before APEX was akin to texting while driving,” explains Corey Lyon, associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and medical director of the A.F. Williams Family Medicine Center. “The greatest advantage now is that the computer no longer stands between me and my patients. This allows for deeper thinking and connection.”

I really, really like this analogy of “texting while driving” — I can’t tell you how many times my train of thought has been interrupted by the computer while I’ve been talking to a patient. Maybe 5% of those interruptions were for things that might have been useful or beneficial to the patient. I’ve written before about how EMRs aren’t designed primarily for doctors or patients, and while I am still deeply concerned about the high cost and low benefit we’re getting out of EMRs, I am hopeful that stories like this will encourage organizations to start helping out their doctors with methods like APEX.

 

Posted by Matthew Loftus

Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at www.MatthewAndMaggie.org

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