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Is Connected Health the Response to Physician Burnout?

October 19, 2018
Meredith Wagner

Burnout is becoming an increasing problem for physicians, with 42% saying they feel burned out, and an additional 15% admitting either colloquial or clinical depression.  Burnout and depression can impact performance and quality of care, as doctors can find themselves going through the motions and processing patients, instead of building relationships and providing personalized care.  It’s also not limited to a few specialties, but impacts a nearly every type of provider.  However, family medicine, emergency care, and Ob/Gyn practitioners have some of the highest rates of burnout – some of the most frequently needed providers.

 

 

Among the key drivers of burnout, the job itself is cited as the most significant factor, with finances placing second.  More specifically, physicians say bureaucracy is the single greatest contributor, though long hours, lack of respect and autonomy, increased digitization of healthcare (specifically, EHRs), and low compensation also are near the top of the list.  Expectedly then, physicians believe that burnout can be reduced by more flexible and manageable schedules and patient loads, increased compensation, and decreased government regulation.

 

 

A problem clearly exists that impacts doctors, healthcare systems, insurance companies, and of course patients.  The good news is solutions exist that can help.  Specifically, connected health technologies can help reduce the burnout rate by addressing many of the driving concerns.

 

 

Scheduling flexibility

Connected healthcare allows doctors to see patients from any location.  That means they are able to deliver care from home offices or reduce the travel between offices, without impacting care delivery.  The ability to reduce commuting time between locations helps create more convenient and flexible schedules, particularly when doctors are able to reduce or eliminate longer commutes.  Practices may allow doctors to choose their own virtual care days, where they see patients virtually from the convenience of their own homes.  Eventually, this could even lead to fully flexible scheduling, where doctors can choose their own virtual hours to fit their schedules or maximize income, or whatever balance between is best for them.

 

 

Autonomy and empowerment

The ability to have some level of control over schedules gives doctors a sense of control over their own careers.  Perhaps even more importantly, connected health ensures doctors are able to provide continuity of care to their patients, independent of location.  The ability to see their patients anywhere – where distance as a barrier to service is eliminated for both patients and doctors – gives doctors a sense of ownership and helps build relationships between them and their patients.

 

 

Reducing workload

A growing population combined with a shortage of physicians has only increased workloads.  With connected health solutions – from online patient portals to wearable devices – data collection can be a simplified task.  Much of it can be offloaded onto patients, giving them an increased awareness of and involvement in their personal wellness, or automated through connected devices that automatically append new data and information from in-person of virtual visits into patient records.  With any new technology, education is critical to acceptance and adoption.  Connected care is no different, and it’s important that doctors and other staff are all properly trained so they are able to maximize the benefits of their connected health platforms, which should reduce their overall workload.

 

Financial benefits

There are immediate and extended financial benefit that come with connected health.  The most immediate is reduced commuting costs thanks to the ability to provide services from a home office or geographically convenient practice or hospital.  Longer term, connected health can increase the number of patients a provider is able to see.  Whether that’s because the average visit is shorter, because the cost of delivery is lower, or because the practices can extend services to new demographics, connected health platforms should help practices increase revenue.

 

Regulatory reform

Among the reasons connected health usage hasn’t grown quickly enough to balance the physician shortage and burnout is inconsistent regulatory reform.  However, over the past year, regulatory activity has increased that can drive connected health growth and reduce burnout.

 

 

 

Whatever the reason physicians are feeling burned out, the right connected health platform can help relieve their stress – while allowing them to deliver better care to more patients.  It’s a win-win for everyone.  To find out more about adding connected health solutions to your practice, click here.