The vitality of the therapy profession that we have come to know and love is dying a slow death-and it’s not by what you think.
You may feel like a patient whose pulse oxygen reading is too low. They might look okay on the outside, but they’re working harder to make it through each day.
You can sense in them something below the surface is not healthy. Unless the patient makes changes, the future looks bleak.
Similarly, the quality of therapists’ work/life is casually being choked to death by electronic documentation. We are spending far too much time looking at computer screens than patients faces-and it’s killing our souls.
If you feel like you’re professionally suffocating, there’s a reason for it.
Please take a look at these astonishing facts about the stress that the EHR adds to our lives.
90 minutes each day
According to the Annals of Family Medicine, EHR documentation amounts to an extra 90 minutes of work per day.
Approximate number of mouse clicks an ER doctor makes throughout a single shift, according to an American Journal of Emergency Medicine study.
Average time (out of an 11.4-hour workday) on EHRs, compared with 5.1 hours spent with patients, according to a 2017 study in the Annals of Family Medicine.
The Miracle Cure
Ten years ago, President Obama signed a law to accelerate the digitalization of medical records. The stimulus bill has driven the adoption of EHRs at therapy clinics and hospitals across the United States.
Electronic health records were supposed to be the miracle cure for the ailing U.S. healthcare system. Promoters promised higher quality healthcare, lower costs, patient empowerment, and drastically reduce medical errors.
After investing $36 billion and millions of hours of healthcare professionals time, there is little to show for it. Except that it has radically changed the very nature of therapists work experience.
In WebPT’s The State of Rehab Therapy 2019, the top reason for making a professional change is to improve work-life balance, followed closely by increased satisfaction and fulfillment.
Meredith Castin of The Non-Clinical PT, states, “Many therapists were initially attracted to …profession because they’re caring, driven, and conscientious.” They are conflicted when they experience the current climate of unrealistic productivity demands.
Therapists find themselves flittering from patient to patient like a hummingbird in search of life-giving nectar. When these idealistic therapists are forced to complete documentation on top of patient care, it leads to job dissatisfaction and burnout.
The Burnout Epidemic
I blame the bloated EHR notes that have doubled in length in the past decade (Epic) for the burnout problem among therapists.
Rehab professionals are leaving patient care in enormous numbers for a variety of reasons. At the heart of the mass migration is the inner conflict felt by therapists.
There is a constant struggle to serve their patients in the way they’ve been trained, to spend quality time with loved ones outside of work, and to get their notes done.
The lifeless repetition, the box-ticking, the endless scrolling, and pull-down menus are burning out today’s therapists and driving increasing numbers into other occupations and early retirement.
Unless we deal with not being able to breath and enjoy our day because EHR is sitting on our chests, we will see the therapy profession, as we know it end up on life support.
I’d love to hear your experience and thoughts in the comments below. If you want to email me, I can reach me at heypaul@paulpotterptcom