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Digital medical record systems causing fatigue and burnout in health staff

The inability of doctors and nurses to properly use electronic record-keeping systems remains the biggest challenge to how well the systems perform across Australia, new research has found.

Over the past few years, all states and territories have moved to some form of electronic medical record system (EMR) to replace old paper records.

The first survey of the use of electronic medical records in Australia has found some doctors and nurses are still struggling to use the digital systems.

The first survey of the use of electronic medical records in Australia has found some doctors and nurses are still struggling to use the digital systems.Credit:Photo: Andrew Quilty

The first large-scale study into the use of EMRs across the country has found smaller venues, such as GP clinics, are integrating the systems better than larger facilities, such as hospitals, which are struggling with a one-size-fits-all approach.

Lead author Sheree Lloyd, from Griffith University’s School of Applied Psychology, said problems experienced with EMRs contributed to fatigue and burnout in health staff, as well as more errors.

“[Governments] have made huge investments in these electronic medical record systems, and poor usability prevents our hospital and health systems from utilising their full benefit,” Dr Lloyd said.

“Usability must be considered a primary feature [of EMRs] because we’ve got a workforce that is already burnt out, stressed and fatigued.”

The study, which was led by Griffith University in collaboration with Monash University, the Royal Melbourne Hospital, the University of Wollongong, and the Australasian Institute of Digital Health, found doctors in general practice and other primary-care facilities expressed greater satisfaction with EMRs compared to nurses.

While that was flipped in the hospital sector, where nurses were more satisfied than doctors, overall, the satisfaction and take-up levels were lower in hospitals than in primary care.

Co-author Chris Bain, a professor of practice in digital health at Monash University, said Australia needed to learn the lessons that had already been worked through overseas, especially in the United States.

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