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Janae Sharp explores why this parody isn’t just funny. It’s a call for real change.
This year at HIMSS, Judy Faulkner, CEO of Epic Systems — one of the biggest players in the electronic health record sphere — sat down for an interview with Healthcare IT news, to discuss the innovation and improvement of EHRs. Faulkner is known for a brusque, take-no-prisoners approach to business. However, she alienated some of her admirers and colleagues in the industry with her glib response to a question regarding the connection between EHRs and physician burnout. “The latest studies I’ve seen are showing that there’s not a high correlation between happiness with the EHR and happiness with their job and the problem of burnout,” she asserted. “I think it would really help if the media understands that and helps everyone else know it.”
The media — or social media, at least — took note: A few days after Faulkner’s comments, an Epic parody account popped up on Twitter. By blasting Epic’s software and its effects on physicians, the account earned well over 8,000 followers within five days.
I wanted to get Faulkner on the phone to discuss physician burnout and the EHR. I’m still waiting. But in the meantime, I decided to contact the parody account and examine what it meant and how — if at all — it impacts the conversation.
The number of doctors or nurses who have spoken up to defend EMRs since I started this parody account. pic.twitter.com/0DrIjEdh4I
— EPICparodyEMR (@EPICEMRparody) March 12, 2019
The parody account’s creator, or creators, messaged me within a few minutes and said they could offer their opinion, though they remained anonymous. They said their experience with the Epic EHR was also their motivation for starting the account. Faulkner had said she wanted “the media” to “understand” and convey the correct relationship between EHRs and physician burnout; now, according to the founders of this cheeky Twitter account, she’s gotten her wish.
The founder of the parody account also reiterated what Faulkner seeks to deny, that in fact dissatisfaction with EHRs has a strong impact on physician burnout. “I hope that EHR vendors recognize that healthcare workers are dissatisfied with their products,” they said. “While complaints about the EHR might seem like whining by privileged people, all of the whining is backed up by data. We do spend many more hours in front of the computer than with patients. We do click the buttons thousands of times per shift. Personally, I haven’t had a day free from Epic in years. I routinely spend one to two hours on my vacation responding to patient messages. Unless I want to assign that work to a colleague, there are no other options. At the most extreme, some doctors are simply retiring rather than enduring another day clicking buttons, entering data into the EMR.”
A lot of patients complain that their doctor stares at a screen their entire visit. That's why we will soon be introducing a mandatory online wellness module for those whiny patients to increase their resilience. @epiccares
— EPICparodyEMR (@EPICEMRparody) March 13, 2019
After founding the Twitter account, a main takeaway became this recognition that many doctors experience a feeling of powerlessness. “Whatever our EMRs force us to do, we do,” the creator explained. “There is no mechanism for us to (give) feedback to the EMR vendors and get meaningful change. We are constantly expected to adjust to the EMR. The EMR is never expected to adjust to us.”.
Invitations for improvement are easy to find. The existence of this Twitter account is also a stark representation of the number of real, live clinicians who have been personally affected by physician burnout, simply for being employees of a healthcare system.
I am looking forward to continuing the conversation about education, the nuances of a large technology company, healthcare and physician burnout.
EHR systems like Epic have to do a better job. Judy Faulkner holds the keys to improving the lives of so many people — patients and physicians. And while it’s easy to dismiss social media’s legions of armchair critics, in this case Faulkner would do well to note the complaints of the very real individuals behind the creation of this account. They are the ones who are on the ground daily in the healthcare field. They are the physicians and clinicians who are looking for systems that improve the quality and depth of their practice of medicine rather than diminishing it.
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