Did you know that doctors spend nearly six hours a day on EHR-related tasks – 4.5 hours in the office and about two additional hours outside the office? (Source: Healthcare DIVE) This growing burden along with increased workflow results in clinician burnout and, in some cases, ultimately physician suicides.
This is one of the many unique challenges in healthcare today, as the current rate of physician burnout has been and continues to be an issue. According to the AMA, emergency medicine physicians have the highest rates of burnout at 60% in 2017, followed by OB/GYN and family medicine. And it is only getting worse, unless those in the healthcare industry intervene. I spoke with Nora Lissy, Dimensional Insight’s director of healthcare information, and Julie Lamoureux, senior healthcare consultant about this issue. They share their insights on the physician burnout challenge and how technology and analytics can work to reduce it.
Clinician burnout is a widespread problem
Within the past 10 years, technology has played a major impact on healthcare delivery, especially with the demand for electronic health record (EHR) implementation under the Obama administration. Although technology has facilitated communication between various care settings, it has fallen short in other capacities. For clinicians, the increased use of technology has negatively impacted their focus on patient-centric care. Increased workflow as well as pressure to meet regulatory requirements has resulted in clinicians spending less time on patients and more time on “documentation,” leading to computer-centric or task-oriented care.
This shift towards computer-centric care leads to increased pressure and stress, leading to burnout – not just for physicians, but also for nurses and other clinicians. And the burnout problem is only getting worse. Nora explains: “I feel that clinicians are working ‘for the computer’ to meet measures instead of caring for patients, and I think the problem is getting worse. Too many regulations, long hours, tighter staffing, and a task-oriented hospital culture all contributes to burnout.”
How technology and analytics can reduce clinician burnout
How can we reduce the rate of clinician burnout in healthcare? Julie suggests that hospitals need to address certain pain-points such as the high number of regulations, workflow reduction, and stress reduction. She also says some form of intervention is necessary to solve the problem.
“Without any intervention to improve and simplify workflow, burnout and disenchantment will get worse,” says Julie. As innovations in health IT progress, technology and analytics can be used to reduce physician burnout in various ways.
Alleviate number of regulations: There are currently too many regulations, 629 to be exact, that clinicians are pressured to meet. In fact, the Healthcare DIVE article indicates that physicians and hospitals must currently document 341 hospital-based requirements in a “proper” manner, leading to an average cost of $1,200 per admitted patient. This leads to longer hours and a promotion of a task-oriented or computer-centric culture of care. The AHA has been currently fighting to reduce the number of regulations enforced on hospitals, allowing more time for clinicians to interact with patients.
IT can help healthcare providers automatically comply with regulations. Part of the problem lies in the details of rules that clinicians need to keep in mind continuously along with caring for patients. Regulations involve clearly specified rules, with a majority of them being automated into an IT system. By applying regulatory algorithms to “current” patients and scheduled patients, work queues and alerts can be created so practitioners can identify specific patient populations, focus areas, and potential area risks.
Increase access to information: Nora believes that easier EMR integration as well as access to proactive information would result in a greater understanding of a hospital’s patient population as well as an easier method to identify at-risk patients. Greater insight into a patient population results in easier methods of identifying at-risk patients, providing better patient care, and greater promotion of patient-physician culture.
Return to patient-centric culture
We can’t forget that a doctor’s primary reason for entering healthcare is usually to interact with patients and provide better care, especially if we are moving towards a value-based model of care. The issue is becoming even more urgent due to projected physician shortage in the near future, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Therefore, those in the healthcare industry need to proactively respond to the burnout problem and reduce the amount of unhealthy stress placed onto clinicians. The healthcare industry needs technology to run in a more efficient manner; however, there also needs to be a balance that allows clinicians to practice in a way that focuses on the patient as well as fosters patient-physician relationships, not replace them with computer tasks.