Healthcare I.T is a contributing factor to physician burnout, but could it also be the key to alleviating it?
Physician burnout can lead to mistakes that harm patients and can also cause top-notch physicians to drop the profession altogether, furthering the clinician shortage which leads to more burnout for those left behind.
It’s a vicious cycle we as a society can ill-afford. And while there are a number of factors that contribute to burnout, one of the oft-cited reasons is frustration with the IT and medical computers that have become a central part of a doctor’s workflow.
Are HIT Worries Causing Burnout?
According to a survey of over 1700 Rhode Island physicians, 70% reported “HIT-related stress.” Those who specifically stated they had frustration with EHRs also have over 2x the rate of burnout than those who didn’t.
It’s entirely possible that physicians who are already burned-out would find EHR more frustrating than those who aren’t. HIT and EMR are hardly to blame for all physician frustration: the fact is, being a doctor is a job that puts a person hip-deep in traumatic experiences.
Still, we must admit that the numbers don’t look great, and even a small contribution to such a condition can help.
Consider too the incredible cost: it’s been calculated that the cost of replacing a burned-out physician is 2 to 3 times the physician’s annual salary, with lost revenue for a full time physician totaling up almost $999,000 per year. Altogether, the costs of burnout and turnover are near $1.7 billion per year in the United States alone.
But if HIT is often considered to be the culprit, can it also be the answer? What strategies and technologies can give doctors some breathing room?
Save Log-In Time
Remembering 18 passwords for different programs, accounts, and computers is frustrating for anyone, as is having to track down the IT guy when they’ve forgotten one. This is where a biometric scanner or a smart card, attached to a single sign-on program like Imprivata, can reduce clinician stress.
An EMR computer or medical tablet with a built-in fingerprint or RFID scanner is simple to log into: the doctor just swipes their card/finger and moves on with their day. While that may not seem like a lot of saved time, consider how many exam rooms or offices a doctor visits a day and all the time they waste hunting down IT when they need a password reset.
This benefits HIT too: a single sign-on like Imprivata stores passwords in one secure, encrypted location.
Get Doctors Involved in IT Strategy
Not all doctors are tech-savvy and most IT guys aren’t doctors.
Doctors and nurses use the tech in the field but many healthcare groups exclude them from the planning and design process.
Doctors know where their tech pain points are. They’re struggling with EMR, telehealth devices, or unclear directions. They’re experiencing burnout while trying to deploy the newest bit of HIT strategy or equipment.
HIT departments need to reach out to doctors on staff who are willing to partner with the IT department and provide actionable intelligence for how doctors are using tech and where they can use better training.
Adopt Telehealth to Reduce Unnecessary Doctor Visits
The adoption of telehealth has can dramatically reduce the number of needless doctor visits. Using a medical computer or tablet to facetime can provide the peace of mind and answers to general questions that a patient needs. In some studies, the adoption of telehealth reduced unnecessary doctor visits by nearly 50%.
For hospitals and ERs, reducing the number of visits also plays a role in monitoring chronic conditions. Telehealth and IoT medical devices can keep patients on track with their treatments without the need for routine check-ins. Also, successfully monitoring a patient away from the hospital greatly reduces the risk of HAIs (hospital acquired infections), improving patient outcomes and saving facilities money in the long term.
Fighting Fire with Fire
The stress of learning new technology can contribute to burnout, but that doesn’t mean that the same technology can’t make things better! Technology is a tool that, when deployed correctly, can improve our workflow and state of mind.
To hear some success stories where new tech and deployment strategies made life in a hospital better, or to learn more about the technology itself, contact Cybernet today