5 Reasons Why Patient Documentation Can Cause Physical Therapist Burnout

Joseph Elevado

Jul 28, 2023
Physical therapist experiencing burnout due to patient documentation

In a 2022 report by The American Physical Therapist Association (APTA), 86.3% of physical therapists “agree or strongly agree” that administrative tasks such as patient documentation contribute to burnout.

But how exactly does documentation cause stress and burnout among physical therapists?

Here are 5 reasons why:

Reasons Why Patient Documentation Causes Provider Burnout

Time Limitations

Patient documentation is time-consuming, adding strain to physical therapists’ workload. In fact, a 2019 study on medical documentation time found that physicians spend only 49.2% on managing EHRs and other administrative tasks. In comparison, only 27% of their workday involves direct contact with patients.

Having tight deadlines to complete and submit their reports also adds to physician stress.

Complying With Regulatory Requirements

Every physical therapist is expected to stay abreast of the following regulatory requirements:

  • Internal guidelines
  • Billing codes
  • Legal regulations

Failing this can lead to severe repercussions that may affect both the provider and the practice itself.

This places pressure on the physical therapist to ensure that every patient record is compliant with current regulations.

Monotony And Repetitiveness

While administrative tasks are crucial, they can be tedious and boring. This is especially considering that many physical therapists want to treat and help patients rather than deal with desk work.

The repetitiveness of patient documentation and other desk work will eventually lead to job dissatisfaction and burnout.

Documentation Standards

In the physical therapy space, the standards for comprehensive patient documentation have increased over time.

Physical therapists are now expected to document:

  • Patient assessments
  • Progress notes
  • Treatment plans
  • Outcome metrics

Combined with the demand for precision, the volume of information that providers need to document is physically and mentally taxing.

Inefficient Documentation Software

Thanks to advancements in medical technology, physical therapists can rely on documentation systems to streamline their administrative work. However, when the same systems have clunky interfaces, software glitches, and limitations, they can add stress rather than decrease it.

Lack of sufficient training can also contribute to inefficiencies when using documentation software.

When physical therapists are unable to maximize their time because of their documentation system, they will accumulate stress and eventually feel burnt out.

How You Can Help Decrease Physician Stress

In the same APTA report, respondents agreed that:

… medically necessary physical therapist services are delayed — ultimately impacting patients’ clinical outcomes — because of the amount of time and resources they must spend on documentation and administrative tasks.

Thus, the well-being of physical therapists is crucial to maintain not only the quality of their performance but also the success of patient outcomes.

Here are a few ways you can support your providers with patient documentation and reduce their stress:

  • Consider assigning their administrative tasks to trained back office staff. Allow your physical therapists to focus on what they do best
  • Encourage your physical therapists to voice their concerns about patient documentation. Facilitate a safe space where they can express their grievances and feedback on their administrative workload to relieve their stress
  • Actively provide them with materials on updates about legal regulations surrounding patient documentation. Reduce their burden of finding and researching updates on billing codes and legal standards
  • Upgrade your documentation system. Find up-to-date, efficient software that complements and streamlines the administrative workflow of your providers

Alleviate The Burden Of Patient Documentation

As patient documentation continues to be a burden on physical therapists, practice managers and administrators must ensure that their workload is always manageable. By being aware of these 5 reasons why documentation causes burnout, you’ll be able to create a strategy to protect the well-being of your providers.

Fortunately, there is now a way to significantly reduce the weight on the shoulders of your physical therapists when it comes to patient documentation. Discover how the intuitive interface and flexibility of ScribePT can ease the stress of your providers. See the advantages of ScribePT for yourself by requesting a demo today!

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