Make technology like banking to tackle physician frustrations, Northwell leader says

As physician burnout and shortage rates continue, health leaders are looking toward improved development of technologies like virtual care to help reduce physician feelings of frustration. 

"To deliver care only with an appointment is archaic. The access problem cannot be fixed unless we find a different way to deliver the care. That's what people crave. They're working as hard as they can, and then they're constantly told they're not providing enough access," David Battinelli, MD, dean of the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and executive vice president and physician-in-chief of New Hyde Park, N.Y.-based Northwell Health, told Becker's.

"If we can improve the connections with our patients and still get paid for the work we do, I firmly believe that at least 50% of all the direct patient care that we deliver can be done virtually and better," he said.

Dr. Battinelli said excessive documentation can also lead to frustration for many physicians.

On average, reports have shown physicians spend 15.5 hours weekly on paperwork and administration, taking them away from precious time spent caring for patients

"We all know that the amount of documentation that's currently required far exceeds the amount of documentation necessary for good patient care. I think that's probably the central feature that physicians feel," he said. 

While there have been reports that one-third of physicians intend to leave their institutions, it goes deeper than that. 

"It's really this frustration, which is real, and the question then becomes what can we do about it because this is not benefiting patients," Dr. Battinelli said.

While supportive leadership and good peer support are all steps in the right direction, it also comes down to better pay. 

"That's also not the final answer because even the high-paid specialties, they're still feeling the same issues with respect to frustrations and professional fulfillment," he said.

Dr. Battinelli pointed to banking as an industry that has evolved to better meet the needs of customers, something he feels technology in the healthcare industry should follow. 

"If we could connect better virtually or continuously, much like the change that's come around banking, when we all used to have to go to the bank only when the bank was open, we would be doing a service to our patients," he said.

Along with leaning on the help of technological advancements, Dr. Battinelli said it's important for physicians to properly manage their frustrations.

"We've all been in the situation where some days we want to quit and other days we can't believe somebody pays us for doing that. We've got to be able to teeter that and work with your people to figure that out, and not buy into the notion that balance is perfectly even all the time," he said.

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