We are at a tipping point. There is finally a dawning of awareness among healthcare leaders that physician dissatisfaction is both acute and presents a very real threat to the entirety of our healthcare system.
But there are exciting, encouraging signs of action too.
We have been banging this drum for several months, but in the event that you missed it, Geneia published the results of our national survey of physicians. Dubbed the Physician Misery Index, our research found alarming levels of dissatisfaction; the statistics from which bear repeating:
- 67% of physicians are, or know of someone who is, planning to leave the practice of medicine.
- 78% say they frequently feel rushed when seeing patients.
- 84% report that “quality patient time” may be a thing of the past.
At Geneia, we believe that bringing back the joy of medicine is a team effort starting with putting physicians in the driver’s seat of innovation. That’s why we created the Joy of Medicine Challenge. We asked physicians and medical students to submit their ideas for how to restore passion for the practice of medicine–and they did.
Physicians—just like the rest of us—define joy in many different ways. For some, it means being able to spend more time with patients and for others, it’s more time with their family. For physicians like Lolita Alkureishi, MD, Wei Wei Lee, MD MPH, and Vinny Arora, MD MAPP, it means making technology tools like the EHR more patient-focused. The diversity of submissions reflected the very individual nature of joy.
Submissions ranged from using predictive analytics for personalizing text messages to patients with chronic illnesses to embedding advance directives information on the drivers’ licenses of patients. Other ideas varied from creating an online community for creativity in medicine to practicing guided meditation and taking a short-term professional service trip. If you want to be inspired by physicians’ creativity and their problem-solving skills, I encourage you to review all of the Joy of Medicine entries as well as the comments and suggestions our panel of physician judges provided to entrants.
Three finalists were chosen by the physician judges in combination with peer-sourced voting—and they presented their ideas in a 'Shark Tank' style, head-to-head pitch-off at MATTER, Chicago's newly launched healthcare technology incubator. The room was filled with physicians and healthcare stakeholders—and excitement and optimism that was palpable in and outside of the event. The #JoyofMedicine hashtag trended on Twitter that night and the next day with more than 500 tweets.
Our keynote speakers, who have personally and professionally been invested in physician happiness and joy for a long time, provided insight into some basic techniques that help create the kind of efficiencies that give back the gift of time to physicians.
Of Printers and Pre-Visit Labs
Dr. Lyle Berkowitz, Associate Chief Medical Officer of Innovation at Northwestern Memorial HealthCare, and Dr. Christine A. Sinsky, Vice President of Professional Satisfaction at the American Medical Association, explored both the depth of physician dissatisfaction and successful curative techniques.
Dr. Sinsky, the figuratively speaking VP of Joy for the AMA, spoke of the effectiveness of pre-visit labs, which have been shown to reduce phone calls by 89%, letters by 85%, and additional visits by 61% while at the same time increasing patient satisfaction and saving $24 per visit. Other techniques? How about putting printers in exam rooms to save 20 minutes per day per physician, like the University of Utah Redstone did? Or putting in a well-designed flow station to save 30 minutes per day, per physician, like they did at the North Shore Physicians Group? Both Dr. Sinsky and Dr. Berkowitz quickly taught us that innovating for joy is well-within all of our reach.
The stars of the show, however, were the finalists and they were truly inspiring. Manjinder Kandola, still in medical school, and presenting on behalf of his team of two medical students and three undergrads from the Georgia Institute of Technology, excited the crowd with a mobile app that uses predictive analytics and clinical algorithms to personalize text messages to patients with chronic illnesses. While he was with Geneia at MATTER Chicago, his team was in San Francisco at the Thiel Foundation Summit. Manjinder told the crowd: “It really means a lot to go from hearing my ideas are crazy to they’re crazy cool.”
The commitment and dedication of another finalist—Lolita Alkureishi, MD—to remake the EHR into a patient-friendly and patient-focused tool was contagious. She started her presentation with a drawing made by a seven year old girl. It’s her
perspective on a visit to her pediatrician’s office—the patient and her family happy, facing each other, with the doctor in a corner typing away, entering data in the EHR.
Hashim Zaidi, a newly minted MD who begins his residency in Emergency Medicine this month—and the ultimate winner with his idea to embed advance directives on drivers’ licenses—told the audience that end-of-life care is an area in which small interventions have the potential to make a big difference in patient satisfaction, quality of care, and, ultimately, physician satisfaction. He also told us he came up with his idea on a beach in Thailand, proving that innovation and big ideas are not just the purview of board rooms and idea labs.
The ideas on the whole were as different and thought-provoking as the physician entrants who submitted them.
It is my sincere hope that the Physician Misery Index and the Geneia Joy of Medicine Challenge have helped to galvanize a much-needed and long-overdue conversation about why physicians are so miserable. Likewise, I believe that this unique effort has inspired and encouraged the growing numbers of us who are working to reverse this troubling trend.
Geneia is committed to continuing this conversation about putting physicians at the forefront of creating the changes that will impact them. We are providing $5,000 in consulting resources to Dr. Hashim Zaidi, the Challenge winner, to help further define his idea. So stay tuned for updates. We also will be measuring and working to improve physician satisfaction at the hospitals, physician practices, and health networks we serve. I hope you’ll join us.