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Will HHS' Strategy to Address Health IT–Related Physician Burden Provide Relief for Providers?

Jaime Rosenberg
Health information technology (IT), specifically electronic health records, came with promise of improving high-quality patient care. However, unintended consequences of the technology have exacerbated physician burnout in the United States. In response, HHS has released a draft strategy for addressing health IT–related burden.
Amidst a growing prevalence of physician burnout in the United States, HHS has issued a comprehensive draft strategy aimed at reducing both regulatory and administrative burdens related to the use of health information technology (IT) and electronic health records (EHRs).

The draft strategy, required by the 21st Century Cures Act and in partnership with CMS, outlines several strategies for addressing specific sources of physician burden through collaboration with a variety of stakeholders across the healthcare system, including government agencies, payers, and provider institutions.

Hoping to address burden associated with clinical documentation, health IT usability and the user experience, EHR reporting, and public health reporting, HHS’ strategy outlines 3 primary goals:
  • Reduce the effort and time required to record information in EHRs for health providers during care delivery
  • Reduce the effort and time required to meet regulatory reporting requirements for clinicians, hospitals, and healthcare organizations
  • Improve the functionality and intuitiveness (ease of use) of EHRs
“In its role as a payer and regulator, we believe there are many steps HHS can take to reduce burden by reassessing and revising different regulatory and operational aspects of federal programs, and with effective leadership on the key challenges of health IT-related burden,” states the strategy report.

In a collective effort among healthcare stakeholders to address rising rates of burnout among US physicians, health IT, specifically EHRs, has continually been singled out as a major source of frustration for physicians, largely due to the reporting burden posed by the technology.

A recent study1 published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association found that health IT–related stress was prevalent among 70% of 1792 surveyed physicians. The highest prevalence was observed in primary care–oriented specialties. Physicians who reported poor/marginal time for documentation had a nearly 3-fold risk of burnout, physicians who agreed that EHRs add to their daily frustration had 2.4 times the risk of burnout, and physicians who reported spending moderately/high excessive time on EHRs at home had a nearly 2-fold risk.

Similarly, a report from Geneia Analytics found that the nationwide Physician Misery Index has increased from 3.78 to 3.94 out of 5 since 2015. The survey of 300 physicians demonstrated that 96% of physicians believe EHRs should be better designed to seamlessly integrate with the technology systems used by their office and its insurance providers; 57% reported that their EHRs don’t currently integrate.

A significant majority (68%) also said that they lack the appropriate staff and resources to analyze and use EHR data to their full potential, which may be a contributing factor to the frustration they express with the time and quantity of data required.

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