Receipt of more than the average number of electronic health record (EHR) system-generated in-basket messages is associated with an increased probability of physician burnout, according to a study published in the July 1 issue of Health Affairs.
Ming Tai-Seale, Ph.D., M.P.H., from the University of California in San Diego, and colleagues examined the correlation between physician well-being and the volume and sources of in-basket messages physicians receive. A total of 934 physicians responded to a survey to examine the volume of in-basket messages during a six-week period in 2016.
The researchers found that on average, 114 of the weekly 243 in-basket messages received per physician were generated by the EHR system compared with 53 messages from colleagues and 30 from patients. Overall, 36 percent of the physicians reported burnout symptoms and 29 percent intended to reduce their clinical work time in the upcoming year. Receiving more than the average number of system-generated in-basket messages correlated with an elevated probability of burnout and intending to reduce clinical work time (40 and 38 percent, respectively). Lower odds of burnout and intention to reduce clinical work time and greater satisfaction with life were seen in association with physicians’ perceptions of a positive work environment. Compared with male physicians, female physicians had a higher risk for burnout and lower satisfaction with life.
“Collective actions are needed at the national and local organizational levels to bring about systematic changes to this previously little-known yet important source of friction,” the authors write.