[Case Study] Petaluma Health Center Leverages A Mobile App To Reduce Physician Burnout

Despite the numerous benefits Electronic Health Records (EHRs) offer to the healthcare industry, they are also one of the leading causes of physician burnout. Researchers at the University of New Mexico have found that clinical structure design and clinical process, attributes which are both highly impacted by EHRs, contribute to 40 percent of the clinicians’ stress.

For every minute the physician spends with the patient, double the amount of time is spent in filling out the necessary documentation. Statistically, 13 percent of the physicians who participated in the survey reported that their levels of stress and burnout were directly related to EHRs.

Technology that was intended to increase the physician’s face to face time with the patients has increased the face to screen time instead.

The Challenge

The physicians and nurses at Petaluma Health Centre, a medical clinic located in Sonoma County, California were struggling to keep up with tedious data entry into the EHRs. Typing the patient’s notes for the clinic’s electronic health record system was time consuming, stressful and was gradually taking over the practitioner’s off time.

The challenge was aggravated by the fact that not all healthcare providers had fast typing speeds and a lot of them were not tech savvy. The choice was between developing an AI powered healthcare app and hiring medical scribes. The clinic contemplated the latter to aid the doctors in the documentation process but found the following downsides.

1. Negative impact on the provider-patient relationship

Having another person in the room, who isn’t medically trained, when conversing with the doctor might cause discomfort to the patients and result in them being less candid in their conversation.

2. Limitation of typing speed 

Even with the fastest of scribes, the speed of documentation is always limited by the typing speed and manual clinical note taking is always going to be a time intensive activity.

3. Liability concerns

Any miscommunication between physicians and scribes can lead to inconsistencies in the documentation and may result in legal repercussions.

4. Disruption to clinical workflow

Medical scribes at the end of the day. Their unavailability or absence may result in workflow disruption if they need to take a day off.

5. Cost effectiveness

Hiring resources to the team adds up the overheads and the costs in the long run.

To overcome these challenges, Petaluma Health Center (PHC) took an innovative approach and decided to overcome the downsides of technology with technology itself and worked on integrating a digital health solution for improving clinical efficiency.

The solution

A mobile speech recognition application was considered by the PHC team as the best alternative to improve the efficiency of the documentation process. Doctors and nurse practitioners could dictate their notes and the voice recognition software converts it into text, all through their own work phones. The application was integrated with the Petaluma clinic’s EHR resulting in seamless data transfer.

Having a custom developed app gives a greater control over the design and functionality. It also makes interoperability with other medical software easier and allows for better integration of innovative technology like artificial intelligence and natural language processing.

The scribe app lets the physicians complete documentation tasks using voice commands. It also gives them the option to type or dictate progress notes.

By integrating the EHR within the scribe app, the physicians were able to navigate to the patient profile to view details such as chief complaint, history of present illness (HPI), current ongoing medication, medical history, and allergies.

Healthcare providers could import the relevant data through the tap of their fingers. The app contained predefined commands like “Import all history” and “Import Allergy, Medical History, and Hospitalization” aimed at streamlining the physician workflow and adding to the convenience of accessing the data.

The app also allowed for current notes and progress notes to be formed as two separate sections which could be synchronized with one another by clicking on a single button. The current notes refer to the notes from the patient’s most recent medical visit while progress notes are a comprehensive record of all historic interactions. Progress notes eliminated the need for healthcare workers to start from scratch every time the patient visits.


The medical scribe app resulted in streamlining of clinical workflow while taking patient notes and contributed positively towards boosting clinical efficiency. The biggest beneficiaries turned out to be behavioral health providers who had lengthy and detailed HPI to fill in the clinical notes. The tool also gave advantage to physicians whose injuries or physical limitations made typing painful and difficult.

Here are the benefits reported by the staff at Petaluma Health Center.

  • Time saved in taking the intake notes.
  • Reduction in strain on the wrists as a result of excessive typing.
  • Enhancement in the quality of patient interactions
  • A better work-life balance due to reduction in time spent in documentation
  • Lower stress levels and improvement in self reported physician burnout

If you are looking to integrate innovative technology-driven solutions within your healthcare facility, get in touch with us today. With 11+ years of experience as a healthcare software development company and a number of success stories in our portfolio, Arkenea is a trusted software partner for many healthcare organizations both large and small.