The widespread implementation of electronic medical record (EMR) systems (also known as electronic health records or EHRs) and an increased patient population have given rise to heavier workloads and more administrative burdens on today’s healthcare providers. In addition to increased stress on physicians, this reality has also had negative effects on patient care, satisfaction, and wait times.
The hours physicians spend on administrative tasks is significant. A recent report showed that physicians now spend the majority of their time on electronic paperwork and far less time face-to-face with their patients. When patient-provider visits are shortened, the quality of care a provider is able to offer suffers. It becomes more difficult to have meaningful conversations about a patient’s mental and emotional health, or to explore the possibilities and merits of lifestyle changes to address or mitigate health issues.
Another side effect of the overwhelming amount of required notes and documentation is an increased risk of burnout. One study found that physicians who reported not having enough time to complete EMR documentation were almost three times as likely to show symptoms of burnout. When physicians experience burnout, it interferes with their ability to provide quality care to their patients. Burnout often manifests as depersonalization, or detached feelings, toward patients. And when a provider is unable to demonstrate empathy, patient satisfaction decreases.
Inefficiencies in an organization’s office or operational procedures also exacerbate the problem of heavy administrative burdens – and lead to longer patient wait times. When patients experience long delays before they see a provider, satisfaction levels plummet. Dissatisfaction with wait times has been shown to negatively affect patients’ perception of their entire experience, including the quality of care provided by physicians and other caregivers.
Streamlining organizational operations and eliminating inefficiencies has been shown to ease administrative burdens, decrease wait times, and increase patient satisfaction. One healthcare provider significantly decreased patient wait times by implementing a “lean” process in their office. This included identifying wasted time, areas for improvement, addressing bottlenecks, and reallocating some administrative tasks to non-physician staff members. As a result of adopting this methodology, they saw an 85% decrease in patient wait times.
While electronic medical records (and the administrative tasks and time they require) are here to stay, organizations can mitigate the negative effects on patients by redistributing the administrative workload, examining and adjusting office procedures to increase efficiency, and implementing tactics to make wait times less onerous for patients. Doing so will benefit physicians, patients, and the health of the organization.