How Technology Can Help Combat Physician Burnout While Improving Patient Engagement

Posted on: September 30, 2020

written by

Rahul Varshneya

One of today’s greatest public health concerns isn’t something that physicians can treat in patients—that’s because, in this case, doctors are the ones in jeopardy.

A recent study from the Journal of Internal Medicine admitted that physician burnout has become something of a public health crisis, having an effect on more than half of practicing physicians. Physician burnout leads to poorer performance in the clinical setting, which can further lead to a rapid fall in the quality of care and  patient safety.  

Modern technology, however, holds the potential to streamline healthcare in powerful ways. In this piece, we will look at a few ways technology can help combat physician burnout and improve patient engagement at the same time.

1) Making Data easily Accessible for Physicians

Physicians have enough to do. In 2020, using data procurement to make informed clinical decisions shouldn’t be added to the list. Conventional paper-based medical records are slowly giving way to streamlined digital records that can securely be uploaded to the cloud and made retrievable remotely to healthcare professionals and patients alike. 

By doing this, management, storing, and transmission of data becomes quick and easy. Support for clinical decisions is made available to physicians; making it possible to take better, more informed medical decisions which greatly improves the health of patients.

Automation can also play an important role in reducing physician burnout. The majority of practices today work with frequently disparate solutions such as standalone EHR, Practice Management and Patient Engagement systems that are at best loosely connected. An automated, truly integrated platform for the independent physician practice as well as ambulatory care is based on the concept that solutions shouldn’t be designed to solve a single purpose. Rather, all these solutions are designed as one platform to automate processes and streamline workflow. This considerably reduces burnout and boosts patient engagement in turn.

Electronic health records (EHR) facilitate the easy sharing of information and collaboration between labs and specialists without the time and resource expenditure on physical transmission. Take, for instance, cases of sudden cardiac arrest. Physicians rarely, if ever, receive data like ECGs rhythms from AED units, yet their data can be vital to understanding a patient’s presenting rhythm and why they may have required defibrillation. 

Avive Solutions, a company building a new automatic electronic defibrillator (AED) machine, hopes to automatically connect data from their defibrillator to those who will benefit from its use, saving clinicians time wasted tracking down data so that they can focus on what matters the most - treating their patients.

2) Enhancing Physician-Patient Communication

Medical technologies like patient portals, telehealth, mobile health, and healthcare CRM platforms can, with the right implementation and usage, boost patient communication, retention, loyalty,  and engagement within a health system. All these factors can significantly reduce burnout among patients.

While telehealth, which is a broad scope of healthcare services provided at a distance through video consultations, helps healthcare organizations appeal to a wider range of patients and is being leveraged by them as a way to ameliorate the quality of patient care as well as satisfaction; with patient portals, providers can directly communicate with patients through means of a secure healthcare website. 

mHealth apps are the rage in healthcare right now due to the ready accessibility and increased convenience these apps offer. CRM software also holds the potential to become the next big thing in healthcare since they combine data from various sources (such as consumer and patient demographics, social, psychographics, behavioral, financial, clinical, website, call center, provider credentialing, etc.) to furnish a complete view of patient activities and habits.

A recent HIMSS Connected Health Survey showed that half (52%) of healthcare IT professionals use at least three connected health technologies. Of those who use health technology, 69 percent emphasize tech that allows for the transfer of health data between patient and provider.

According to Tom Martin, HIMSS Director of Healthcare Information Systems, “The Connected Health findings illustrate the importance of interactive relationships between physicians and individuals and technology as a means to advance comprehensive health and healthcare.”

3) Aiding Vendors in Creating Ambient Physician Workflows

The Harris Poll and Stanford established that more than 7 in 10 physicians wish to have a better user interface design for interacting with EHRs, and more than two-thirds would like to see EHRs become better equipped for interoperability, or sharing information across different systems. Physicians also noted that they would prefer future EHR systems to allow better predictive analytics for diagnosis, prevention, and population health management.

To help augment physician user experience and operational workflows, healthcare technology vendors have started adopting persona-oriented design techniques within their systems. Persona-based workstations and user interfaces are geared toward strengthening the workflow of specific health care professionals, such as a nurse in an intensive care unit or a doctor in a clinic.

For example, companies like Sopris Health and are conducting trials using voice recognition combined with natural language processing to create virtual scribes -- digital assistants that allow physicians to be hands-free and, more importantly, focus more on the patient.

Persona-based methods and technologies get rid of extraneous tasks from workflows and reduce the number of clicks needed to access information on the physicians’ part, adding extra minutes (and meaning) to patient interactions. This simple technique is one of the most efficient ways of dealing with physician burnout while increasing the quality of care.

Closing Words

Apart from the ones mentioned above, there are many other ways in which technology can proactively be used to reduce physician burnout and increase patient engagement. 

New solutions are emerging every day that can and will make a significant impact on how we deliver and receive quality care. In order for them to take hold, we’ll need a system that’s open to technological innovation — and chooses to embrace it.

For now, all you really need to do is choose solutions that best suit the needs of your practice. Once you’ve discovered what ameliorates your workflow, you can just sit back and do your thing while technology does its thing.

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About Rahul Varshneya

Rahul Varshneya is the co-founder and president of Arkenea, a digital health consulting firm. Rahul has been featured as a technology thought leader across Bloomberg TV, Forbes, HuffPost, Inc, among others.

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