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Unveiling the EHR Aftermath: A Post-COVID Reality for Physicians
The resilience of healthcare professionals has been tested in unprecedented ways over the past few years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent study published in JAMA sheds light on a concerning trend – more than ever, physicians are spending time immersed in Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and handling patient-related tasks beyond scheduled hours.
The implications of this study underscore the challenges physicians face in the wake of the pandemic, with significant consequences for both their professional and personal lives, as well as the well-being of their patients.
The After-Hours EHR Struggle
Any provider knows the demands of documenting patient encounters, updating medical records and ensuring compliance with regulations have become increasingly time-consuming. But the consequences physicians face as a result, need to be more universally addressed:
Burnout and Overall Well-being
The extended hours spent on EHR tasks have contributed to a rising wave of physician burnout. The emotional toll of the pandemic, coupled with the administrative burden of digital documentation, has left physicians with little time for self-care and recovery.
Impact on Patient Care
With physicians dedicating more time to administrative tasks, there is a growing concern about the potential impact on patient care. Increased workload can lead to fatigue and, consequently, a decline in the quality of decision-making and overall patient experience.
Strained Work-Life Balance
The blurring lines between professional and personal life have taken a toll on physicians' work-life balance. Long after their shifts end, physicians find themselves tethered to screens, completing digital paperwork instead of spending quality time with family or pursuing personal interests.
The Impact of Telemedicine on EHR Workload
The JAMA study also revealed a direct correlation between the surge in EHR tasks and the widespread adoption of telemedicine. As medical visits shifted dramatically from in-person to virtual encounters, physicians found themselves dedicating more time to digital documentation. From a modest 3.1% of medical visits in August 2018, telemedicine skyrocketed to encompass 49.3% of visits by September 2021. While telehealth utilization has since declined from this pandemic peak, new baseline levels are still significantly higher.
So today, for every eight hours originally allocated for patient care, physicians now spend five or more hours of that time immersed in the intricacies of EHRs. This shift, while a response to the evolving healthcare landscape, has undeniable repercussions for both healthcare professionals and the patients they serve.
Consequences and Urgent Calls for Change
The intensified workload is not without consequences. The documented increase in EHR hours has a profound impact on the mental and emotional health of physicians. Employee burnout, a well-documented concern in the healthcare industry, is also closely linked to the documentation burden. In fact, the JAMA study emphasized the critical need for health systems to acknowledge and address the burden placed on both physicians and staff by the increased demands of EHR documentation.
The Role of Virtual Medical Scribes in Alleviating EHR Burdens
Amidst these challenges, a glimmer of hope emerges with the integration of virtual medical scribes into the healthcare landscape. These technological allies can effectively shoulder the burden of EHR tasks, allowing physicians to refocus on patient care during their scheduled hours and maintain a healthier work-life balance.
By leveraging virtual medical scribes, health systems can alleviate the strain on physicians and mitigate burnout. These digital assistants can efficiently handle documentation tasks, ensuring accuracy and timeliness without imposing additional after-hours responsibilities on already stretched healthcare professionals.
The benefits of virtual medical scribes, just to name a few, are:
Virtual medical scribes can streamline the documentation process, ensuring accurate and timely entry of patient information. This allows physicians to focus on patient care during working hours without the looming burden of administrative tasks.
Reduced Burnout for Physicians
By offloading EHR responsibilities onto virtual medical scribes, physicians can reclaim their after-hours time, mitigating burnout and promoting overall well-being. This, in turn, has a positive ripple effect on the quality of care provided to patients.
Virtual medical scribes are not bound by the limitations of traditional working hours. They can efficiently handle EHR tasks around the clock, ensuring that physicians have access to updated patient information whenever they need it.
The JAMA study serves as a wake-up call, urging health systems to recognize the toll that increased EHR demands are taking on physicians. As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, virtual medical scribes emerge as a strategic solution to help physicians reclaim their time, reduce burnout, and enhance the quality of patient care.
The post-COVID reality demands a proactive approach to support the well-being of healthcare professionals, ensuring they can continue to provide exceptional care in an increasingly digital and demanding environment.
Physicians Angels was the industry's first Virtual Scribe company, providing real-time documentation directly into the physician's EMR, along with our Staffing Angels back-office support services. Our services improve patient throughput, practice financial performance and contribute to a better work/life balance for the physician and office staff. To learn more, visit www.physiciansangels.com or contact us.