According to a study published in the American Journal of Managed Care, an increase in the volume of inbox messages received by primary care physicians and clinicians is not necessarily a contributing factor to feelings of burnout.
Previous studies have revealed that half of the primary care doctors and up to one-third of nurse practitioners and physician assistants experience burnout due to the physical, mental, and emotional strain caused by workplace stressors.
However, some researchers are not confident that the volume of inbox messages received is linked to the burnout of these health providers.
Allyson O’Connor and colleagues investigated the relationship between the percent change in daily inbox notification volumes and primary care providers’ (PCP) burnout. In addition, the researchers looked at how reducing unnecessary notifications affected burnout levels in primary care physicians (PCPs) working at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).
In 2017, the VHA started a program to reduce the number of messages primary care doctors receive. The researchers looked at the survey answers of 6,459 primary care doctors working across 138 VHA facilities between 2016 and 2018 to see if the program helped.
The study found that, on average, the number of daily inbox notifications received by each primary care physician (PCP) decreased by almost six percent after implementing the initiative to reduce low-value notifications. The messages decreased from an average of 128 to 114.
However, they also found that about 51% of facilities had fewer notifications after the intervention, 30% remained the same, and 20% had more messages. However, according to the study, these notification changes did not significantly affect PCP burnout.
According to the researchers, an increase in notification volume was not found to be the sole predictor of burnout in primary care physicians (PCPs).
The researchers also pointed out that the intervention program needed to distinguish between the different notifications sent to healthcare providers and that relying solely on the volume of messages may not accurately reflect the effort required to manage one’s inbox.
Physicians clearly spend a lot of their workday – two hours or more – managing electronic health record (EHR) inbox notifications. “EHR tasks can be time intensive and inefficient and can compete with direct patient care; they may also spill into personal time and could contribute to burnout,” the study said.
While the connection between inbox volume and burnout was unclear, health systems can mitigate EHR burdens through EHR systems design. “Collaboration between health system leaders and PCPs on EHR design, with a focus on staff well-being, is essential,” the researchers concluded.
Source: Medical Economics