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Electronic Health Records Key Driver of Physician Burnout


Half of U.S. physicians are experiencing some of the symptoms of burnout, with even higher rates for general internists. Implementation of the electronic health record (EHR) has been cited as the biggest driver of physician job dissatisfaction, said Christine Sinsky, MD, a former hospitalist and currently vice president of professional satisfaction at the American Medical Association (AMA), to attendees at the 19th Management of the Hospitalized Patient Conference, presented by the University of California-San Francisco.1

Dr. Sinsky deemed physician discontent “the canary in the coal mine” for a dysfunctional healthcare system. After visiting 23 high-functioning medical teams, Dr. Sinsky said she had found that 70% to 80% of physician work output could be considered waste, defined as work that doesn’t need to be done and doesn’t add value to the patient. The AMA, she said, has made a commitment to addressing physicians’ dissatisfaction and burnout.

Dr. Sinsky offered a number of suggestions for physicians and the larger system. Among them was the idea of medical teams employing a documentation specialist, or scribe, to accompany physicians on patient rounds to help with the clerical tasks that divert physicians from patient care. She also cited David Reuben, MD, a gerontologist at UCLA whose JAMA Internal Medicine study documented his training of physician “practice partners,” often medical or nursing students, who help queue up orders in the EHR, and the improved patient satisfaction that resulted.2

“Be bold,” she advised hospitalists. “The patient care delivery modes of the future can’t be met with staffing models from the past.”

Larry Beresford is a freelance writer in Alameda, Calif.


  1. Friedberg M, Chen PG, Van Busum KR, et al. Factors affecting physician professional satisfaction and their implications for patient care, health systems, and health policy. 2013. Accessed November 3, 2015.
  2. Reuben DB, Knudsen J, Senelick W, Glazier E, Koretz BK. The effect of a physician partner program on physician efficiency and patient satisfaction. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(7):1190-1193.

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