Blog: Using New Technology to Reduce Physician Burnout from the Inside Out

Today’s healthcare systems are overburdened, resulting in high rates of physician burnout. Providers are inundated with administrative tasks and repetitive diagnoses, which leads to decreased efficiency and satisfaction for both providers and patients.

According to a recent report issued by Medscape, of the 15,000 surveyed providers, 42 percent reported suffering from burnout. Burnout happens when energy levels are in the negative; when overstretched, people are unable to recharge their batteries and are often left depleted, unmotivated and disengaged. This is not only an issue for providers’ well-being — burnout trickles down through the larger care system, leading to lower patient satisfaction and quality of care, as well as higher rates of medical error and physician turnover.

To combat these issues, we need to redirect and streamline patient care, while also improving protocols for care institutions. Technology can drive these changes forward, ultimately empowering physicians to spend more time seeing patients, improving the quality of care and satisfaction for both sides. Here are three ways that technology is already helping to alleviate providers and reshape the healthcare system for the better.

Redirecting care

Today the majority of in-clinic primary care appointments are, in large part, dedicated to cases that may not need in-person visits for proper treatment. Things like UTIs, colds, or pink eye, for example, don’t require in-person care; these can be diagnosed (and prescribed for) remotely through telemedicine. Ensuring that patients find the right point of care — from the start — is beneficial for providers and patients alike. However, in order for this to happen effectively, we’ll need to educate patients while improving internal protocols.

The industry is beginning to utilize technology to determine the route of care, and ultimately tell patients if they need an hour in-person doctor’s visit, a quick video call, or a chat with an automated service to get them the prescription they need. Care providers are adapting communications to include informational emails, appointment reminder texts, and push notifications — to integrate into a patient’s day-to-day and make better use of physicians’ time. Resources like apps and websites help guide patients to the appropriate channel of care, and reduce the reliance on physicians. Doctors are then able to manage only the necessary cases, and operate at the top of their licenses. When providers are able to focus their time and energy on meaningful patient interactions, the chances of burnout are decreased, and the care experience is improved for all.

Reducing administrative tasks and streamlining workflows

Repetitive diagnoses are not the only factor preventing doctors from working at the top of their license — they also need to handle administrative tasks both during in-patient appointments and following their work day. According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, for every hour of face to face care, physicians spend nearly two additional hours updating health records and managing desk work. Overloaded with administrative processes, doctors are not able to focus on providing quality care as they should be.

Health records, as well as data entry and storage, should streamline the administrative process without adding another layer of work. Although these protocols were initially developed to replace the papers and clipboards used throughout clinics for decades, inconsistencies in patient data and its processing have led to new roadblocks and nuisance for providers.

Just as digitization led to the replacement of hard copy patient files, today’s healthcare systems are using technology to improve administrative routing and workflows for providers. Voice recognition, as well as AI-powered natural language processing (NLP), are central to many of these technologies, aiding in the age-old practice of note-taking and dictation, long carried out by medical scribes. Recent studies suggest that capturing data with NLP-enabled software can successfully automate the documentation process, easing the burden on providers and improving the digitized medical record system in place. Using this software to cut out the distraction and time spent on busy-work also decreases the risk of burnout, and lets doctors dedicate more of their time to quality care.

Restructuring patient data

A recent study found that, while in the exam room with patients, physicians spend 37 percent of their time navigating health records. Thus, we’re seeing that providers are dedicating an unnecessary amount of their time to deciphering patient data, even when they are face-to-face with patients. As they’re currently structured and logged, important patient data gets buried in health records. Data is often recorded via transcription, which results in excess, irrelevant information overshadowing key data points necessary to the appointment. It leads to endless scrolling and repetitive patient questions to acquire information likely already present in their record.

In truth, there have been pleas for improved medical records for centuries, tracing back as far as 1858, when Florence Nightingale published her studies on British soldiers during the Crimean War — and the lack of adequate patient records for their treatment in hospitals. By implementing more comprehensive records, with clearly defined health information, providers can decrease the time they waste in in-patient appointments and allow for more fulfilling care experiences.

Today, artificial intelligence is one technology being utilized to improve not only records, but how we analyze patient health information to predict potential health issues and make diagnoses. AI’s reliability has quickly made it an asset for healthtech, where it is used to understand information and recognize patterns most representative of many conditions. Integrating emerging technologies with the digitization of health records, providers are able to better assess their patients’ health and deliver comprehensive care.

Continuing to innovate, continue to improve

While the issue of physician burnout is an ever-changing, complex challenge, technology continues to create new ways for us to address it, head-on. Using mobile and easily accessible communication to connect with patients, systems can ensure that their time and resources are used most appropriately and effectively. Internally, innovations in AI have led to solutions that help redistribute administrative work and restructure patient data for not only improved provider workflows, but more impactful understanding of individuals’ health, as well.

Creating a seamless triage and workflow for providers can have a direct impact on reducing physician burnout, and improving the care experience. New solutions are emerging every day that can and will make a significant impact on how we deliver and receive quality care. In order for them to take hold, we’ll need a system that’s open to technological innovation — and chooses to embrace it.

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