Orthopaedic specialists are more likely than other doctors to report higher than typical levels of burnout or stress. Much of this stress has to do with their use of Electronic Health Records.
The study focused on doctors who use Electronic Health Record systems. These systems have been adopted by 96 percent of American health care facilities. More than 1,700 physicians were asked to answer questionnaires about their use of electronic health records.
More than 70 percent responded that the use of these systems left them feeling stressed. Many admitted that the use of the technology made them feel emotionally exhausted, and some recognized that they were stressed to the point where they believed they needed help.
Those rates are worrisome, because high stress levels can directly impact standards of patient care. Patients who are being treated by a doctor who experiences stress, burnout or other symptoms of emotional exhaustion are at a higher risk of medical or surgical errors. They may also experience a lower standard of care, and a higher number of unnecessary tests or interventions.
Electronic health records were used by just 9 percent of hospitals and health care facilities in 2008, but ten years later, have been adopted by a majority of American hospitals. While most doctors in the survey admitted that the technology helped them improve communication and billing, just about half believed that they improved patient care.
While the logic and reason behind the introduction of technology into the health care sector was a sound one, there have been plenty of roadblocks along the way. Many hospital interfaces are not connected to other components in the system, making retrieval of medical records a tedious and challenging task. There have been many cases in which miscommunication between computer interfaces has led to tests not being performed and treatment not beginning in time, leading to serious consequences.
Nurses and doctors have admitted that much of their time is spent in trying to operate the technology, and even then, the data is not always easily accessible online, meaning that they still have to use older tech, like fax machines or emails to send data. All this creates a very stressful environment, and one that has the potential to seriously impact patient safety.
Orthopaedic surgeons seem especially prone to the risk of stress related to the use of health care technology. The study recommends better training in the use of electronic health record systems, reduced expectations about documentation, and more time to enter records in the daytime as possible tools to help alleviate some of this stress.
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