As one who has spent much of my career working with doctors, I know it’s controversial to suggest that technology can help with physician burnout. Tweets like this one reflect the views of more than a few physicians:
Physician burnout is a symptom caused by repeated moral injuries from an inability to optimize outcomes or costs due to interference from the insurance, pharma, MedMal, hospital and EHR industries. No digital tool will stop this interference which drives EBITDA for industries.
Yet, there are four things we know:
- Physicians say technology – EHRs in particular – are a significant contributor to physician burnout. Geneia’s national survey showed nearly all physicians (96 percent) believe the amount of time physicians spend on data input and reporting in the last 10 years has increased. The same percentage say EHRs should be better designed.
- If technology is a cause of physician burnout, then it can be a solution too. At a minimum, improving the technology that most frustrates doctors – the EHR – should reduce physician dissatisfaction.
- The use of technology in medicine isn’t going away, and is very likely to grow. Take telehealth. In an American Well survey, about 20 percent of doctors said they currently use video visits, up from five percent in 2015. By 2022, 61 percent of physicians “who are not currently using telehealth indicated they are either very likely or likely to start using telehealth representing half a million doctors.”
- Physicians with more exposure to technology, data and analytics have a more positive outlook on the benefits. For example, Geneia’s survey showed 64 percent of self-identified population health users think data and analytics tools can help “efficiently assess patient history and needs” compared to 50 percent of non-users. The American Well survey found among doctors who tried video visits, 15 percent currently use it two or more times a week and that number is expected to increase to 50 percent by 2022.
My strong belief that technology can and should help combat physician dissatisfaction is why I was thrilled to join a panel of experts for the video series, Leveraging High-Tech Tools in the Fight Against Physician Burnout. The other distinguished panelists were:
- Rasu Shrestha, MD, Chief Strategy Officer & Executive Vice President, Atrium Health
- Geeta Nayyar, MD, nationally recognized health IT leader and board-certified rheumatologist
- Janae Sharp, Founder of the Sharp Index and Utah HIMSS Board Member
I encourage you to watch the series of videos we created. Each of the ten episodes has a theme and a transcript. For example, in episode 7, From Paper and PalmPilots to AI: Understanding Health Tech’s Evolution, we discussed how the digital transformation has influenced physician burnout and how technology is expected to evolve.
Rasu Shrestha, M.D., MBA, “I’m really excited about technology…Natural language processing, where it’s looking at the syntax and the context of the specific terminologies, the medications, allergies, the immunizations, problems, labs [laboratory reports], structured documents, the unstructured narrative of my postoperative surgical note, or the radiology report that I’m writing. The NLP, really mining for that information and structuring the information in the documents that I’m trying to create. Pulling out specific codes that might be of relevance, risk stratifying the specifics of the diagnosis that I’m putting in place. Artificial intelligence, that’s where things are really moving toward, coming in and adding additional insight in ways that were just not imagined possible.”
Episode 5, Pioneering the Fight Against Physician Burnout, is one of favorites. In this episode, we discuss which health systems and vendors are advancing the battle against physician burnout.
Rasu Shrestha, M.D., MBA, “I’m new in my role as chief strategy officer at Atrium Health…What was refreshing for me was the first week in my job, we had a senior physician council meeting. And this is with the CEO, me, and the chief medical officer in the room with about 16 of the top physician leaders across the organization. And the No. 1 topic of discussion at that highest level was on physician burnout. So it really does start at the top.”
I offered Paladina Health and VillageMD as excellent examples of organizations who prioritize physician health.
Paladina Health has “a very strong focus on the cultural health in their organization and what they can do to help support physicians and include them in the design of the clinical system…They are working hard to preserve the physician/patient relationship in a unique way by providing more direct access to the physician. But also, I think they monitor and measure the physicians differently, so that they take some of the treadmill pressure off of the doctors as well.”
In New Hampshire, VillageMD has “had great success in recruiting physicians out of some of the bigger hospital organizations because they feel like they’re valued. They have great control over their day. They have more resources in the practice. They have integrated behavioral health, they have social workers, they have nutritionists. And so there’s more of a team that supports the physician…And because they feel more supported by a team, they’re much happier. And so they have great retention and great recruitment in a time where it’s really tough to bring physicians on board.”
Restoring the Joy of Medicine
I hope you’ll also join us in our work to restore the joy of medicine to today’s physicians. We’ve called on health IT vendors and everyone in healthcare to help fight burnout. To learn more, visit: https://content.geneia.com/2019/misery-index-deep-dive/index.html. Scroll to the bottom for links to joy of medicine resources.