The Links Between EHR Dissatisfaction, Clinician Burnout and Turnover

Perspective from Dr. Brian Patty, Chief Medical Informatics Officer, Medix

Burnout has received much press recently, and rightly so. Clinician burnout was rising before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the pandemic significantly accelerated burnout. In an article published in Critical Care Medicine assessing burnout rates early in the pandemic, burnout had increased 29 percent in physicians and 22 percent in nurses. Similarly, in a white paper published by KLAS in December of 2021, they found that burnout rates had risen over 30 percent for physicians and nurses since the onset of the pandemic.

Burnout, like turnover, is a multifactorial problem. However, if you want to reduce burnout, look to solve system issues.  A meta-analysis of articles published in JAMA Internal Medicine presenting successful strategies to reduce burnout found that system-based initiatives were far more likely to reduce burnout than were individual-based strategies.

The Cost of Turnover

If you want to look for an ROI for your burnout reduction initiatives, look at the rates and subsequent cost of turnover for both physicians and nurses at your organization. When I was CMIO at Rush, I sold our $2 million initiative to reduce burnout based on an expected two percentage point reduction in turnover, saving the organization $10 million  in physician turnover costs. How did we do? At the project’s onset, our KLAS Arch Collaborative Net EHR Experience Score (NEES) was in the 46th percentile, and physician turnover was 12 percent per year. At the end of the two-year project, we re-measured with the Arch Collaborative, and our NEES was in the 99th percentile. Physician turnover dropped to 6 percent, saving the organization $30 million in turnover costs. I think we were successful!

Connecting the Dots

KLAS recently released an impact report that confirms the link between burnout, NEES and turnover. Of the clinicians who reported they were completely burned out, 60 percent stated they were likely to leave the organization versus only 9 percent of those who reported no burnout. When those who said they were very dissatisfied with the EHR (low NEES) were asked, 34 percent stated they were likely to leave the organization. Of those very satisfied with the EHR, only 12 percent said they were likely to leave the organization. Our experience at Rush and the data from the KLAS Arch Collaborative clearly show a link between EHR satisfaction, burnout and subsequent clinician turnover.

How to Start Addressing the Problem

Measurement is key. Knowing your physician and nurse turnover rates and the rates of burnout in each population will help you build the argument that your organization has a burnout problem. Then, draw the connection that this problem is costing the organization a large amount of money; that should help on the funding side. From there, utilize the Arch Collaborative survey to identify your problem areas and illustrate the link between EHR satisfaction, burnout and turnover at your organization. Finally, it’s time to turn those problem areas into an evidence-based EHR satisfaction project plan, identify the costs associated with that plan and go get your funding!

Has clinician burnout made it difficult for you to build and maintain your Epic workforce? Medix Technology can help with solutions built for every stage of your Epic journey. Talk to our team of specialists today. 

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