Tackling a root cause to physician burnout

Physician burnout is a concerning trend occurring throughout medical facilities.

According to a recent Medscape survey, where 27 medical specialties graded their burnout on a scale of one to seven—with one being an indicator of no burnout and seven showing a physician’s inclination to leave medicine—all but one specialty selected a four or higher.

The prime culprits for physician frustration? Respondents indicate that too many bureaucratic tasks, spending too many hours at work, feeling like just a cog in a wheel and increased computerization top the list.

Unfortunately, it is not surprising that technology is perceived as a negative. Although originally intended to streamline operations and reduce the burden on physicians, poorly designed technology often has added to physician stress. Clunky interfaces, the need to constantly click between screens and either too much or too little information can drive up physician dissatisfaction and contribute to burnout.

However, the opposite also holds true. When technology includes key features that improve efficiency and facilitate ease of use, it has the potential to lessen physician strain. Here are four characteristics that ensure a technology solution alleviates physicians’ burdens and limits frustration.

Easy charting. Most physicians have certain ways they approach patient care documentation based on years of experience practicing medicine. They have specific terms they use and particular processes for recording data. With a one-size-fits-all electronic health record, it frequently takes physicians more time to document a patient encounter because they must spend critical minutes searching for terms or clicking between screens. Instead of serving as a tool to enable patient care, these solutions can stall it. However, when physicians can quickly edit or adjust the information so it dovetails with the way they practice medicine, it can simplify the process of charting, allowing them to easily document the encounter and spend more time interacting with patients. Auto-population features can speed things even more. When the physician enters a condition, such as dry eye, the system automatically populates the relevant fields, and the physician merely has to edit those fields if necessary.

Focused content. Using a generic EHR can be especially exasperating for specialty physicians because the content that’s included may not be completely germane to their specialty. Conversely, there may be key information they need that is absent. Before committing to a system, it is critical to check whether the included content relates to the conditions the organization treats. If it doesn’t, then physicians may spend precious time keying in relevant information, which can increase the risk of mistakes, as well as eat up time.

Cloud hosting. Physicians can access cloud-based systems from anywhere at any time. So, if the healthcare organization has multiple locations, the doctor does not have to worry about how to access a patient record when moving between facilities. He or she simply logs into the system and can pull up the record in seconds. When there is a mobile option, physicians can securely access records on-the-go, including at home. As such, if a patient has an emergent issue that needs prompt attention, the physician can respond even if he or she is out of the office. This frees the physician from the constraints of the office and allows more flexibility—which can reduce burnout. Cloud-based solutions are also maintained automatically behind the scenes. The technology vendors make periodic updates without the healthcare organization having to install new versions or bring down the system to implement changes. Not only does this save time and money for the organization, but it also ensures the physician has immediate access to the latest version.

Electronic scheduling. When an organization uses sophisticated scheduling technology, it can efficiently fill physicians’ schedules without overbooking. And, with integrated patient engagement tools such as automated patient reminders, no-shows and wasted time can be prevented. When schedules are seamlessly linked with the electronic health record, doctors can anticipate what patients they will be seeing and better plan for their day. They can also block time to attend to other priorities, increasing their control over their day-to-day schedules.

Getting the right technology is a start
There are many factors contributing to physician burnout and addressing this problem will require a concerted effort by healthcare organizations to uncover and mitigate root causes. However, by employing technology that is designed to free physicians to focus on what they do best—provide patient care—an organization can take a significant step in eliminating this issue.

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