EMR Fatigue: 3 Ways the Wrong System can Lead to Staff Burnout

What's the solution to documentation-related burnout? It's time to get to the root of EMR fatigue. The right technology can make a difference!
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The medical field has waved goodbye to paper records. 4 in 5 office-based physicians now use an EHR or EMR (electronic health or medical records) system. Beyond saving trees, the transition created undeniable improvements in many practices’ clinical efficiency.

Despite advances, healthcare staff still point to documentation as a source of stress. In the physical therapy and rehabilitation field, this is a problem! Up to 82.4% of physical therapists already experience burnout.

So, what’s the solution? It’s time to get to the root of EMR fatigue and learn how the right technology can make a difference.

What Is EMR/EHR Fatigue?

EMR or EHR fatigue is a consequence of inefficient technology, which drives user error and stress. Related are two phenomena known as click fatigue and alert fatigue, explored below.

One study used eye tracking and pupillometry (measurement of pupil dilation) to trace signs of fatigue during EHR use. According to the research, “80% [of participants] experienced fatigue within the first 22 minutes.”

The Impact of EMR Fatigue

EMR fatigue can take a toll on therapists’ job satisfaction and performance. Let’s take a closer look at how the wrong tools put your practice at risk.

1. Creating Stressful Inefficiencies

Stress is often the precursor to burnout, and a cumbersome documentation process can contribute to both. A 2020 Mayo Clinic study linked poor EHR usability to burnout among physicians from all specialty disciplines.

2. Clinical Errors

While it’s impossible to eliminate 100% of documentation errors, we can’t overlook the role of user fatigue. And with widespread adoption of clinical software, the number of malpractice claims related to EMRs has grown over time.

Note: Documentation software is often a contributing factor in malpractice claims, not a primary cause.

3. Poor Patient Experience

A 2016 study found that outpatient healthcare providers spent about half their time on EHR and desk work. In fact, only 27% of the participants’ time was spent face-to-face with patients. Disconnection from patients can lead to depersonalization, one of the three dimensions of burnout in physical therapy.

What is the effect of EMR fatigue on patient interactions? Distance. To literally illustrate this point, look to an op-ed in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “The Cost of Technology” included a child’s drawing of a pediatric exam room:

Emr Fatigue: A Child'S Illustration Of A Pediatric Doctor'S Appointment, Depicting A Physician Facing His Computer While The Patient And Her Family Wait On The Other Side Of The Room.
A girl and her family wait in an exam room. Facing away from the family, a pediatrician gazes down at a computer screen.

Do your providers want to deliver impersonal treatment from across a keyboard? Of course not! Yet it’s clear that EHR systems have the potential to contribute to stress, error, or depersonalization in the clinical setting. How can practices maximize the benefits of their technology, while reducing the risks?

Are Some EMR Solutions Better than Others?

Over time, the requirements of clinical documentation have increased in complexity. Top-rated EMR systems stay ahead of the changes and streamline the documentation process. However, not every solution is optimized to reduce friction in your workflows. Some common challenges include:

  • Click fatigue. EMR systems designed with inefficient navigation increase the users’ cognitive load.
  • Information overload. Staff may make more errors when bombarded with excessive alerting (leading to alert fatigue) and overwhelming interfaces.
  • Slow and unreliable systems. A 2023 poll of clinicians found that only 55% rated their EMR response time as satisfactory. Software solutions that are prone to system crashes can even result in lost revenue.

The good news? EMR solutions like Raintree are constantly innovating and improving user experiences. And there are ways that individuals can adjust their work style to reduce EMR fatigue, as well.

How to Reduce EMR Fatigue

EMR use is an important part of patient care, but that doesn’t mean providers are doomed to burn out. Here are some tips for reducing EMR fatigue.

Take Breaks

Users can do a lot to improve their relationship with technology. A few breaks throughout the day, even for only five minutes, can make a difference. Try listening to music, getting outside, or stretching out tight muscles. Luckily, physical therapists are movement and exercise experts!

Even while you’re working on documentation, there are a few simple things you can do to give your body a break. One example: The 20-20-20 Rule. Give your eyes a break by looking away from your screen every 20 minutes. Focus on an object 20 feet away and continue looking at it for 20 seconds. This will help relieve eye strain.

Choose the Right Solution

Of course, one of the best ways to reduce EMR fatigue is to choose an EMR that’s provider- and patient-centered. The right solution will streamline your clinical workflow, so therapists can spend more time with patients.

Look for an all-in-one EMR that offers a comprehensive, interoperable system. It should also include hands-on staff training and guidance during implementation.

The good news is that you don’t have to look far at all. Raintree’s all-in-one EMR is the trusted solution for 6 of the 10 largest therapy groups.

Raintree Has the Right System 

Treat your staff to a “Best in KLAS” EMR solution. Request a demo today.

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Blogs are created for educational and informational purposes only.  The information provided does not constitute or, is not intended to constitute, legal or medical advice. When you read this information, visit our website, or access our materials, you are not forming an attorney-client, provider-patient, or other relationship with us.

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