Physician Burnout: Anesthesia & EHRs

Physician Burnout: Anesthesia & EHRs

If you’ve been following the medical community on social media, it’s easy to see a pattern of growing concern around one topic: Physician Burnout.

A few Twitter posts show the anxiety of physician burnout in the medical world:

And as technology has become more and more pervasive, end users point out something interesting – EHRs haven’t made life easier.

In response to physician burnout and other concerns, EHR vendors have, perhaps unsurprisingly, pointed fingers back at the medical community, suggesting that stubbornness and fear of change are the causal factors in the difficulties surrounding technology adoption.

But, in a recent article, Doctors Aren’t Luddites. But Their EHRs Are Broken, author Jared Kaltwasser explains that, while EHRs will likely “improve over time and become more user-friendly,” the current mainstream technologies fail to understand the workflows of physicians, forcing the provider’s bedside role to be relegated to the point of scribe or IT manager at the moments when patient focus is most necessary.

Kaltwasser sites a recent survey of 3400+ physicians [LINK: https://www.thedoctors.com/about-the-doctors-company/newsroom/the-future-of-healthcare-survey/] that demonstrates growth in burnout correlated with increased EHR adoption. And, the concerns from the medical community aren’t those of a “Luddite” crowd that is unwilling to adopt. They are very real and very valid concerns:

“Rates of physician self-reported burnout are high, partly because little useful intelligence is delivered back to physicians despite all their time spent performing data entry.” –Wachter & Howell, Resolving the Productivity Paradox of Health Information Technology: A Time for Optimism


As time moves on, so will advances in technology and increased technology adoption  across more and more medical specialties, anesthesia notwithstanding.

Assuming that is true, what are some qualities that Anesthesia Providers can look for now in an electronic solution that can help avoid physician burnout?

User Friendliness

You’ve grown used to apps on our smartphones & tablets that just…work. When you open anesthesia charting software, for instance, why should you expect it to behave any differently than your other apps? External support and training is a nice offering, but a user interface that is simple and intuitive is gold. Social media is replete with this idea: “We aren’t scribes or IT professionals. We are physicians.” Technology vendors and their products should show physicians they understand that.

Small[er] Footprint

What is your current data capture process? One of the primary objectives of any Anesthesia Information Management System (AIMS) should be to eliminate (or automate) as many steps in your workflow as possible. Burnout happens when your passion (patient care) is overshadowed by cumbersome, unrelated tasks.

Technology should relieve the burden of data capture – not increase it.

And, if patients happen to notice your technology, they should be impressed by it. They should never feel that you are distracted from what matters to them and to you: their wellbeing.


No two anesthesia practices are alike. As such, it could be argued that one of the greatest factors contributing to EHR burnout is a one-size-fits-all approach to technology.

Can the software you’re looking at adapt to your needs? What kinds of changes can be made? In what kind of timeline and for how much additional money?

The Payoff

At the end of the day, you’re going to do some data entry. But, if you are going invest the time and effort required to capture that data, you need a return so valuable that the work no longer feels obligatory but rather worthwhile.

Can you get data back out of your system that can help you paint a meaningful picture of your practice’s efficiency, quality, outcomes, and more? Can you access that data without a degree in data science or a certification in Microsoft Excel?

When You’re Shopping For Anesthesia Technology

Ask your technology vendors about the facets of their solutions that may contribute to physician burnout. It’s not just about what the system is capable of, but also the headaches that system might inadvertently cause down the line.

You understand your workflow and your needs better than anyone. It’s okay to be completely uncompromising when it comes to your practice’s endurance and your patients’ experiences. Any vendor that tells you otherwise should probably be kept off of your short list.