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Skeff KM, Brown-Johnson CG, Asch SM, Zionts DL, Winget M, Kerem Y. Professional Behavior and Value Erosion: A Qualitative Study of Physicians and the Electronic Health Record. Journal of Healthcare Management / American College of Healthcare Executives. 2022 Sep 1; 67(5):339-352.
GOAL: Occurrences of physician burnout have reached epidemic numbers, and the electronic health record (EHR) is a commonly cited cause of the distress. To enhance current understanding of the relationship between burnout and the EHR, we explored the connections between physicians'' distress and the EHR. METHODS: In this qualitative study, physicians and graduate medical trainees from two healthcare organizations in California were interviewed about EHR-related distressing events and the impact on their emotions and actions. We analyzed physician responses to identify themes regarding the negative impact of the EHR on physician experience and actions. EHR "distressing events" were categorized using the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) Physician Professional Competencies. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Every participating physician reported EHR-related distress affecting professional activities. Five main themes emerged from our analysis: system blocks to patient care; poor implementation, design, and functionality of the EHR; billing priorities conflicting with ideal workflow and best-practice care; lack of efficiency; and poor teamwork function. When mapped to the ACGME competencies, physician distress frequently stemmed from situations where physicians prioritized systems-based practice above other desired professional actions and behaviors. Physicians also reported a climate of silence in which physicians would not share problems due to fear of retribution or lack of confidence that the problems would be addressed. PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS: Physicians and administrators need to address the hierarchy of values that prioritizes system requirements such as those required by the EHR above physicians'' other desired professional actions and behaviors. Balancing the importance of competing competencies may help to address rising burnout. We also recommend that administrators consider qualitative anonymous interviews as an effective method to uncover and understand physician distress in light of physicians'' reported climate of silence.