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September 13, 2016
3 Leading Causes of Physician Burnout — and What You Can Do

Approximately 87% of physicians have reported experiencing moderate to severe stress, and about half have experienced signs of burnout. Maximizing returns on value-based care reimbursement models is partly reliant on positive patient experiences. However, if the goal is to provide high-quality patient care, then shouldn’t we focus on what healthcare providers need to achieve this?

Time and again, electronic health records (EHRs) come up as a reason physicians are facing burnout and feeling they don’t adequately engage with and support patients. Frustrations with using EHRs, leading to mountains of administrative work that seem counterproductive to the pressure to see as many patients as possible, need to be addressed.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has determined eight “usability priorities” that would help fix the issues associated with EHR use:

  • Enhance physicians’ ability to provide high-quality patient care
  • Support team-based care
  • Promote care coordination
  • Offer product modularity and configurability
  • Reduce cognitive workload
  • Promote data liquidity
  • Facilitate digital and mobile patient engagement
  • Expedite user input into product design and post-implementation feedback.

Here’s a look at three solutions that don’t involve changing out your EHR system.


Patient/physician interaction and communication

Plain and simple: EHRs are not user-intuitive enough to allow for quality patient engagement. A recent study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings has reaffirmed a link between the use of EHRs and physician burnout, spurring organizations such as the Mayo Clinic to investigate the use of medical scribes to unburden physicians with regard to data entry at the point of care.

Physicians trained long and hard to become good doctors who provide excellent patient care, not good clerical workers. Clerical work is critical to the functioning of any practice or hospital — but doing both at the same time detracts from interaction with the patient, in-depth information gathering and discussion, and patient education. When scribes take on real-time data entry, physicians are free to focus solely on the patient. Instead of fiddling with a computer system, the physician is making a diagnosis, ordering tests and medications, and giving the patient information about their condition. That’s the kind of scenario that provides a physician with job satisfaction at the end of the day.


Use a team to support patient care

Patient care is not a one-person game. It never really was, but with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) calling for more and better care coordination, the teamwork aspect of medicine has become codified. Especially for patients with multiple comorbidities or complex conditions, or those whose conditions require inpatient admission, myriad processes need to happen in a short amount of time, without compromising quality of care. For example, in busy inpatient departments, there are a lot of moving parts to manage: physicians overseeing care, nurses monitoring patients, pharmacies dispensing drugs, diagnostics carrying out tests, allied health professionals supporting care, and more.

In addition to documentation, scribes can be tasked with delivering messages, providing reminders to physicians, collecting reports from diagnostics and tracking time spent on tasks. Physician assistants or advanced practice nurses can aid in patient supervision and care during admission, involving a physician only as necessary. Nurse educators can go into detail on information provided from physician to patient, alleviating a further burden on time when more patients are waiting to be seen. These support efforts, combined with removing data entry from physicians’ shoulders, add up. The team-based approach makes the most of the strengths and skills of every member, relieves inappropriate workload burdens through task delegation, and provides a support system that lets each member optimally contribute to high-quality care.


Physician engagement and empowerment

Just as patients need to be engaged as part of their care, doctors, too, should be empowered to prevent their own burnout. Only 20% of physicians are fully engaged with the healthcare institutions that hire them — a harbinger of physician burnout. Physician burnout can be expedited when doctors lose the incentive to practice — or, more often, lose the desire to engage with a healthcare system that doesn’t provide them with the means to practice. The drive to lower costs and increase efficiency can sometimes make it seem that medicine is losing sight of patient care.

Instead of simply dictating the parameters, healthcare organizations should create physician-led committees to help find practical, low-cost solutions and lead the drive for change without compromising patient care. Engaging physicians in these activities, so they can directly influence care and outcomes, leads to better physician buy-in and higher physician satisfaction with their work.

In addition, healthcare organizations should strive to create an atmosphere of support that is non-punitive when physicians speak up about needing help. The first step to fixing the problem of physician burnout, then, is admitting that physicians are human beings who are susceptible to burnout.

“The healers can’t heal without caring for ourselves,” said Jamin Brahmbhatt, MD, in a recent Medscape roundtable. “We need to sleep, we need to exercise.”

Working within an organization that values all aspects of physician well-being goes a long way toward reducing burnout — and helping evolve the business of healthcare for the better.

Care Navigators
As healthcare business models evolve, so should care teams.

Patients who are paired with Care Navigators report feeling less anxiety, and an increased ability to self-manage their conditions between visits. And providers report increased job satisfaction from improved efficiency, and knowing their patients have access to care teams, and strategic support.

Chronic Care Management
With an increased aging population managing two or more chronic illnesses, extending your care teams’ ability to communicate with patients is critical. We take a strategic approach to helping patients chart a path towards their health goals, while self-managing their chronic conditions between clinical visits.

AI Chatbots
We deliver a robust AI Chatbot solution to help manage and sustain effective communication with patients. Care teams implement the conversational text messages and customize patient communication to deliver high quality care.

Nurse Care Team Assistants
Adding a qualified Nurse CTA to the care team increases quality of work-life and reduces stress on nurses. The nursing profession is also experiencing an alarming shortage due to increased clerical burdens and burnout.

Revenue Cycle Management
Transition Revenue Cycle Management into the modern age with a suite of software tools that will transform your billing and coding processes. Transact at lightning speed, with increased transparency and decreased siloes. The QueueLogix software application seamlessly integrates with existing EMRs to ensure the clinical activities and back-office operations are well aligned, monitored and successful.

Referral Management
Referrals scheduled by navigators in the clinical setting builds long term, patient care integrity across the care continuum. With the authority, along with the provider to search for specialists in network, navigators assess their schedules, and ensure appointment compliance.

Scribe Services
There’s a reason why we’re the nation’s most frequently used scribe company: we offer professionally trained medical scribes to meet the specific needs of our clients. We offer a variety of scribe programs, as well as technology and personnel solutions that address revenue cycle management, the transition to value-based care, and more through our HealthChannels family of companies.