Unintended Consequences of Nationwide Electronic Health Record Adoption: Challenges and Opportunities in the Post-Meaningful Use Era

This follow-on article moves the discussion forward by adding further dimension to the issue of unintended consequences from the perspective of the United States health system.

Unintended Consequence 4: Physician Burnout

The accelerated adoption of commercial EHRs coincided (and likely was programmed to coincide) with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The slow, but steady, implementation of pay-for-performance payment models has given rise to the EHR-based quality measurement. The push for reporting clinical performance generates an increased demand for capturing accurate, structured data, and the use of suboptimal EHRs in these tasks has contributed to the so called EHR-associated physician burnout. The use of clinical documentation for nonclinical purposes is increasing and is source of frustration among physicians. This is reinforced by the fact that electronic clinical notes generated in the United States are significantly longer than similar documentation in other developed countries. Recent studies have found that in the post-MU and ACA era, for every hour of patient contact time, physicians may spend up to 2 hours on electronic documentation. The documentation burden has been so intense that in some cases, physicians intentionally close slots in their agenda to complete electronic documentation of previous patients.