Digitization Nation: How do Electronic Health Records Impact Medical Assistants?




Purcell, Alison

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In the last 15 years, Electronic Health Record (EHR) use has skyrocketed, prompting both innovation and pushback from the medical community. Physician burnout has dramatically increased in the last decade and was closely tied to EHR use in multiple studies. As a result, many researchers have advocated for team-based care, in which medical assistants (MAs) take on larger portions of EHR duties traditionally performed by physicians. However, the MA perspective has been largely ignored in this new reallocation of duties, especially considering that many of the duties that were associated with physician burnout are now taken on by MAs. This project seeks to understand the unique dynamic governing MAs’ interactions with their EHRs. I conducted semi-structured interviews with 20 MAs and utilized both open and focus data coding and interpretation techniques to find common themes and unique stories about their EHR experiences. Though none of the MAs were fully satisfied with their existing EHR system, the biggest potential contributor to burnout was the provider-MA dynamic and the workplace culture surrounding the EHR itself. Many MAs also reported high levels of emotional exhaustion due to work, but they did not report the low personal achievement and depersonalization common in individuals with burnout. To adjust to the fast-changing nature of EHR work, healthcare professionals must acknowledge that the burden placed on MAs is reaching a dangerous high; changes to the EHR must be coupled with changes in healthcare professionals’ own perceptions in technology and workplace hierarchies.


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