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Geneia Survey: Physician Job Satisfaction on the Decline

By Vera Gruessner

- Healthcare bureaucracy and greater focus on data entry may be negatively influencing the physician profession including physician job satisfaction, according to a recent survey from the healthcare solutions group Geneia. The company polled 416 doctors in January 2015 and found that 84 percent claim the amount of quality time with patients has decreased over the last ten years.

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Physician burnout is also on the rise, as 67 percent of respondents said they know a doctor who will likely stop practicing medicine within five years. Most respondents were unhappy with the work-life balance aspects of their profession. Only 25 percent surveyed stated they were “very satisfied with the work itself.”

Even though the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) focused on improving patient engagement through Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements, it seems that the patient-doctor relationship is actually floundering. A total of 78 percent of respondents said they feel rushed when speaking with patients.

Additionally, many physicians are feeling overwhelmed by the large amount of paperwork and regulations of the healthcare market. The majority of survey takers – 87 percent – felt that the federal regulations in the medical field are impacting “the practice of medicine for the worse.”

In order to counter the negative effects of the business side of medicine on physicians’ career outlooks, Geneia has implemented the Geneia Joy of Medicine Challenge. This will be a web-based event in which the organization will seek ideas from doctors about the best ways to restore the meaning of practicing medicine.

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In an interview with EHRIntelligence.com, Heather Lavoie, Chief Operating Officer of Geneia, has said that an excess of information has come from the business and technology side on ways to improve the patient-doctor relationship and that it is time for physicians themselves to come forward with creative solutions. This is why Geneia is holding the Joy of Medicine Challenge.

“They’re [physicians] are in a much better position now to design what will work for them,” Lavoie said in the interview. “Some of what you hear from physicians about what they really need is less data entry and less time in the office clicking away.”

Geneia has already seen some doctors submit ideas for improving the practice of medicine. Some suggestions include hanging EHRs on the wall and limiting the direct interaction necessary with the systems while enabling the tools to capture more data automatically. Additionally, one idea on improving population health management includes leveraging the broader care team, and not just physicians, to categorize patients who are at highest risk, who have missed important preventive services,  as well as those with less serious conditions.

While the survey did not directly ask about how meaningful use stages are affecting the practice of medicine, the takeaway shows doctors are unhappy with the bureaucracy and high amount of data entry required through recent regulations.

Despite the dissatisfaction with data entry, EHR systems are here to stay, Lavoie mentioned. Physicians are not asking to go back to paper-based charting and in general going backwards would not work for the medical industry. For example, there are many medical school graduates getting into the field today who have never used paper charts.

However, Lavoie does say that EHR systems may need better design and improved implementation in order to give physicians more time for direct patient care. Both meaningful use and the Affordable Care Act were “a good shot in the arm” in the move from paper-based to electronic systems, “but with any shot in the arm, there may be side effects,” Lavoie infers.

Currently, there are too many “business burdens” for clinicians. The implementation of EHRs may have occurred too rapidly, which puts the systems at a disadvantage for being instrumental or meaningful in the healthcare system. Many medical facilities have felt rushed when implementing health IT tools, which often translates to less training for staff members. The deadlines of federal regulations have also put a time constraint on the design of EHRs, which may benefit from better construct.

“We jumped into implementation very rapidly in some cases and when you do that, you might shortcut design and you might not efficiently implement them… or adequately train the staff,” Lavoie explained.

The talent and the skill of physicians are not being used effectively if they spend more time with data entry than direct patient care. Freeing up physicians from the administrative tasks of their job may improve their career satisfaction.

One solution that Lavoie proposed involves greater data capture and automating data entry. For instance, when a patient’s blood pressure is measured, it would be useful to have a system that incorporates automatic uploading instead of manual recording.

Some supplementary solutions to these issues could come from dictated notes and natural language processing tools. Bringing physicians back to connecting with patients is important for both the satisfaction of practicing medicine and patient participation. Additionally, patient portals that are designed well and have greater usability do improve the patient experience, according to Lavoie.

“Access to information about an individual’s health status… [and] their full medical history has the potential … to improve the physician-patient relationship ultimately and improve satisfaction. That said, we can implement things well or we can implement them poorly.  It isn’t necessarily a limitation of the system itself, rather, so much of it is in how we implement it, how we communicate about it, and how we use it as a tool,” Lavoie spoke on the benefits of patient portals.

Even though two-thirds of doctors know someone who is considering leaving the occupation, Lavoie says most doctors are problem-solvers and optimists who would rather heal the profession rather than leave it. By incorporating the suggestions from the Joy in Medicine Challenge, job satisfaction among those practicing medicine may be restored.

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