Medscape’s Physician Compensation Report is widely known as the go-to source for salary information and other factors affecting US doctors’ income. But tucked among the statistics about which specialties feel fairly compensated, you’ll find numbers that also tell a story about work hours and physician burnout.
To be sure, Medscape also has a Physician Burnout & Depression Report. While insightful, that survey only tells part of the story. The Burnout Report doesn’t summarize hours spent on paperwork or other variables that help connect burnout to problems and solutions from digital health.
Together the compensation and burnout reports raise some interesting questions about EHRs, physician burnout, and how mobile health might help.
What contributes to physician burnout?
Medscape’s Burnout Report tells us what we already know about EHRS, but it bears repeating.
Respondents who reported burnout could select more than one contributing factor. 6 in 10 said that an excess of bureaucratic tasks like charting and paperwork is dragging them down.
When we read that physicians are frustrated by charting and paperwork, we should remember that these bureaucratic tasks are now entirely digital. Halfway down the list, we see that reflected in the fact that 28% of doctors say EHRs are the factor contributing most to their burnout.
This last number is incredible, but it won’t surprise many readers. Nearly a third of respondents who experience burnout say “increasing computerization of practice” contributes. While healthcare adopted EHRs to make documentation more efficient, we’re still hearing about doctors’ frustrations with the switch to digital.
Hours per week spent on paperwork and administration
The reason doctors are frustrated with charting and admin work is simple.
In 2014, just 35 percent of employed and 26 percent of self-employed physicians spent 10 hours or more on paperwork each week. In 2017, that number was 57 percent. By 2018, nearly three-fourths (70 percent) of physicians spent more than 10 hours per week on paperwork and administrative tasks.
In 2021, the average physician spends 15.6 hours on paperwork and administration each week. That number was the same in 2020, suggesting 15 hours of paperwork is the new normal for doctors.
The rise of physician burnout correlated closely with the widespread adoption of EHRs. While correlation isn’t causation, it’s clear that EHR adoption has meant doctors spend more time on paperwork and charts, not less. EHRs haven’t helped most doctors get back time for the parts of medicine they care about – but they should.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
What do doctors value? In 2021, physicians cited “gratitude/relationship with patients” as the most rewarding part of their job for the fifth year. Unsurprisingly, physicians said “helping others” was equally satisfying at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s no surprise that physicians find patient relationships and helping others to be the most rewarding parts of their job. And given that most doctors are doing more charting and paperwork than ever, we shouldn’t be surprised that they are experiencing more burnout than ever.
In 2022, 56% of women and 41% of men told Medscape they were burned out. Those numbers are up from 36% and 51% in 2020.
What if mHealth could help?
What if EHRs and the “computerization of practice” weren’t among the top challenges reported by physicians? Would it be possible for digital health to make doctors’ job easier rather than harder? Imagine a world in which Medscape’s 2030 report finally says that physicians are spending fewer hours on paperwork and administration.
Mobius MD and other companies are working to transform clinical documentation so that doctors can spend less time on bureaucratic tasks. One example is Mobius Conveyor, the world’s most flexible medical dictation system that works instantly on any computer and in any EMR.
“What if doctors felt that digital health was making their job easier, not worse?”
Physicians can get back hours of lost time every week by making smartphones a clinical tool. Doctors use Mobius Conveyor and other mHealth tools every day so they can spend time with patients instead of their computers.
Use mHealth to build an efficient practice
At the end of an earlier version of their Burnout & Depression Report, Medscape offers “Some advice from your peers.”
Doctors using Mobius would add one idea to this great list of tips: Build an efficient practice using your smartphone as a clinical tool.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few ideas: