Patients depend on their physicians and specialists to treat, manage, and even prevent a variety of health conditions, many of which can be life-threatening. As with any other job, a doctors’ ability to perform their job effectively is a function of their work environment and job satisfaction. When they experience high levels of stress, exhaustion, or frustration, they may not be able to perform at the top of their license.
Indeed, burnout continues to be an obstacle for a many physicians. While the number has dropped slightly over the past few years, 42% of doctors still report being burned out. In addition, even those medical professionals who don’t feel burned out themselves see it as an issue. In fact, 96% of medical professionals see burnout as a problem in their organizations (83% say it’s a serious or moderate problem).
How big of a problem is it? Recent estimates peg the cost of physician burnout at $4.6 billion annually.
Burnout can result from a number of workplace factors, including work hours, workload, inefficient processes, repetitive administrative work, poor work/life balance, an inability to treat more patients, and others. In addition, just as burnout drivers may vary from doctor to doctor, its impact can extend differently beyond those physicians to their organizations, patients, and families in many ways.
- Increased stress and tiredness
- Lower job satisfaction and motivation
- Increased patient safety risk
- Reduced patient satisfaction
- Higher potential for medical errors
- Negative impact on professional and personal relationships
- Negative impact on personal health
- Limited access to care for patients
Long-term burnout and general frustration at not being able to focus enough on what they got into the business for – helping patients – can lead more medical professionals to retire or leave the healthcare industry. That can add to and already troubling physician shortage, exacerbating the challenges that contribute to burnout for others.
But, there are ways connected health technologies and tools can help relieve some of the burden on physicians, allowing them to work more efficiently and spend more time actually helping patients. In fact, overwhelmingly (82%), medical professionals feel enhanced technology is a key to reducing burnout.
Telehealth services can allow physicians to spend some of their time seeing patients from their homes or a single clinic, eliminating some of the commuting to or between locations. This can also allow them to schedule more convenient or adjusted hours to accommodate other needs and create a healthier work/life balance. There can also be an added benefit in reduced travel costs for both physicians and patients.
Using telehealth, healthcare providers can more easily fill coverage gaps during peak periods or to help address physician shortages. Given we are still in the midst of a pandemic, this can also allow quarantined physicians to continue to treat patients remotely. In fact, this ability can benefit providers in any health emergency situation, regardless of its scope and scale
Data Entry Reduction
When connected health services are connected to EHRs, data from these tools can be automatically entered into patient records, reducing manual paperwork, which is the single greatest contributor to burnout, according to physicians themselves.
Connected health solutions and virtual visits can provide patients an opportunity to complete forms and provide valuable health information before they meet with doctors, streamlining the visits and putting more relevant information into EHRs, where physicians can access it easily. This can also reduce bottlenecks with office visits and allow other staff to work more efficiently, while providing a better patient experience.
Access to Care
Connected health services, including virtual visits and remote patient monitoring, can provide increased access to care for patients and can increase the frequency of interaction between patients and providers. The increased accessibility can provide regular data on patient conditions and make it easier for physicians to communicate with patients about their conditions, including intervening earlier when symptoms worsen or data exceeds defined thresholds. From medication reminders to symptom monitoring to chronic disease management, connected health can help physicians more effectively and conveniently provide care.
When complete patient information is aggregated into EHRs, and with the increased access through connected health tools, physicians can have more focused interactions with patients regarding specific conditions without other distractions. Because connected health platforms can support treatment through multiple forms of communication and automation, physicians are able to move quickly between patients without sacrificing care, allowing them to see more patients in a day.
While some situations will require in-person visits, telehealth visits can help determine which can be treated virtually and which need scheduled office visits. Insights from video interactions, patient portals, self-reported temperature, weight, and other health statistics, and even simply holding up medication containers to a camera can provide necessary information for physicians to help patients effectively in remote environments.
Physicians got into their professions because they want to help patients, but inefficiencies in the system, increased patient loads, and a shortage of available medical professionals have contributed to challenging work conditions, and high burnout rates. With physicians struggling to managed their own well being and external relationships on top of their professional workloads, it’s hardly surprising nearly half would be willing to take pay cut in exchange for better work/life balance.
While that might help individual physicians, it may not be the optimal solution for managing patient needs, especially in light of an already existing shortage of medical professionals. On the other hand connected health tools can deliver a host of benefits that can help not only physicians, but their practices and patients, enabling providers to deliver care to more patients while helping reduce burnout rates among their staff.
To learn more about how connected health can help drive efficiencies in care delivery, connect with us here.