Tech innovation can mitigate physician burnout

Medical Economics Journal, Medical Economics May 2021, Volume 98, Issue 5

The ongoing COVID-19 global health emergency has pushed physicians to a breaking point. But physician burnout has more to it than just the huge workload that COVID-19 has brought with it and the difficult decisions that need to be made.

The ongoing COVID-19 global health emergency has pushed physicians to a breaking point. But physician burnout has more to it than just the huge workload that COVID-19 has brought with it and the difficult decisions that need to be made. It’s also routine stressors like the IT used to do administrative work. Technology can be a powerful tool for alleviating stress.

Streamline documentation

According to a recent research study conducted by ScienceDaily, one of the biggest sources of stress for doctors is the inclusion of maintaining electronic health records (EHR) to their already exhaustive list of duties to be performed on a regular basis.

More time spent doing clerical documentation work implies less time spent with patients and/or less personal time spent out of the workplace. This obviously isn’t ideal, but it also puts a strain on disillusioned physicians who spent years studying with the hope of getting to work closely with patients and honing their craft.

So then, where exactly does the solution lie? Effective data management is the key to rid physicians of this problem. Some of the ways this can be done include:

  • automating processes within the EHR itself that don’t require a physician’s immediate attention,
  • leveraging data management software to keep information consistent, concise and easily accessible,
  • leveraging cloud hosting to store patient data in order to boost its interoperability across the organization,
  • natural language processing (NLP) is one effective technology solution physicians can leverage for processing unstructured text-notes,
  • clinical Decision Support Systems (CDSS) can help make sense of healthcare data with the latest evidence, as well as suggest treatments tailored to each patient and furnish personalized care plans,
  • Machine learning (ML), a subset of AI, can be applied to complex data in order to predict patterns that the human eye could have missed, and health outcomes in general.

Health data is growing highly complex and multi-dimensional with every passing day. Data management is now more a necessity for any medical organization trying to mitigate burnout among physicians and other support staff than it ever has been.

Adopt telemedicine

The unnerving number of tasks that demand too much of a doctor’s time and attention on a daily basis can drive them up the wall—more so if their schedules aren’t designed as they should be, and there is a shortage of resources.

A report conducted by HIMSS Analytics found that continuous interruptions from phone calls, pagers, alerts from apps, and texts create stress that, in succession, fuels burnout in doctors and nurses.

This suggests that one of the factors that can help prevent burnout considerably is having an integrated, well-designed solution in place.

Telemedicine can prove to be one effective solution on this front. By integrating telemedicine within one’s practice, or even adding telemedicine to a hospital system, physicians can easily streamline processes, offload some aspects of their work, and generally make their lives easier.

This is clearly evident from the fact that telemedicine adoption has skyrocketed in recent years. Close to 60% of human healthcare providers now regard telemedicine as a favorable solution, and a lot of patients feel the level of care furnished through this solution is as effective, or even better than in-person doctor visits (per the 2020 Doximity telemedicine report. There are a number of reasons telemedicine can help mitigate physician burnout and stress:

  • by providing remote consultations, doctors can focus more on patient care, deploy any interventions as needed and strengthen treatment adherence,
  • physicians feel less rushed or pressured for time when they use telemedicine since they aren’t backed up or trying to get to the next appointment as soon as possible. This makes them feel more in control of the situation and keeps them from suffering at the hands of burnout,
  • telemedicine allows physicians to complete administrative work while at home versus them having to stay late at the office, which can positively impact their emotional and mental health.

Ashley Mitek is a contributing author. Send your technology questions to medec@mjhlifesciences.com.