Caring For Those Who Care For Us

by | Apr 7, 2021 | Burnout

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I’m new to healthcare so some things that seem normal and even “old news” to industry insiders are still shocking to me. Case in point: the welfare of individual providers of care.

I was recently reading about how we (in healthcare) should move from the triple to the quadruple aim. The triple aim says we should improve healthcare by focusing on three things:

  1. Improving the patient experience of care (including quality and satisfaction);
  2. Improving the health of populations; and;
  3. Reducing the per capita cost of health care.

And the quadruple aim adds care of the provider (of the care) to this list, which using hindsight does seem like a glaring omission. After all, it is received wisdom that you can’t take care of someone else until you take care of yourself. The article starts by listing some frightening statistics. A couple that stood out to me are:

  • 46% of US physicians experience symptoms of burnout
  • 68% of family physicians and 73% of general internists would not choose the same specialty if they could start over

And yet as we stand here in Q2 2021 the situation seems to be getting worse, not better. Hospitals have been battered financially by COVID while insurance companies have prospered. And the work/life balance for hospitalists and clinicians has crumbled if it ever existed in the first place. In this environment it is impossible for hospitals to invest in anything that is “nice-to-have”, which means that investment decisions are made primarily based on whether they help the hospital financially. This isn’t to be criticized. When you are drowning – as hospitals are financially today – it makes sense to focus on survival before other quality of life issues. Although there is a lot of talk about the fourth aim (ensuring that we are taking care of the provider of care), due to a multitude of reasons, not least of which is budget constraints, the fourth aim is still largely being unaddressed.

I’m proud to be working at CareAlign where we help simplify a physicians work life and give them back an hour or more every day. But it is frustrating that hospitals don’t have the budgets to pay for services such as ours. To combat this we are starting to offer CareAlign in two new ways:

  1. Directly to clinicians. So that one of the cohorts of people who benefit from our services (individual providers of care) pay for it directly
  2. On a performance basis to hospitals. It seems obvious to me that if we are improving the quality of a doctors life that the quality of the care they give will improve as well. We are experimenting with providing CareAlign “for free” to hospitals and post-acute care facilities and then sharing in the financial improvement that results from our services

I’m sure that there are multiple ways that we can all help doctors live the best lives they can so that they can care for us in our hour of need. The most provocative question I find myself asking is “what am I doing to help” and “how can I avoid accepting the status quo”.