Could EHR use be a factor in female doctors’ burnout?

April 18, 2022 – Female physicians are spending significantly more time than their male counterparts working in electronic health record (EHR) systems—which may contribute to their higher risk for symptoms of burnout, according to a new study.

The study looked at six months of EHR use in 2019 for 125 primary care physicians at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The researchers found that female doctors spent significantly more time on clinical emails and notes, and that they received 26% more emails from hospital staff and 24% more messages directly from patients than male doctors.

Working in EHR systems is “a well-known source of frustration for physicians,” wrote Michael Barnett, assistant professor of health policy and management at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in an April 12, 2022 article about the study in Tradeoffs. Barnett, who was not part of the study, noted that the findings suggest that “higher EHR burden for women comes from others’ behavior and expectations rather than from physicians themselves, which is what I find most fascinating about this study.”

The study authors recommended that hospital leaders use time spent on EHRs as a flag for burnout, and that they provide support systems for overworked physicians, such as medical scribes or protected time for EHR work.

Read the Tradeoffs article: Using the EHR to Fight Burnout in Female Docs