Physician burnout is a problem that is not going away. A Mayo Clinic study found that in 2021, 62.8% of physicians had at least 1 manifestation of burnout. This is similar to a Kaiser Family Foundation and Washington Post study, which found that 55% of frontline healthcare workers reported burnout, with this number increasing to 69% for workers between the ages of 18 and 29 years old. Clinician burnout has negative effects on everyone in healthcare, and enacting solutions to prevent burnout is long overdue.
While health tech can be considered a contributor to burnout, well-designed tech can help reduce physician burnout. New, innovative technologies are being created to address the problems that clinicians face. Keep reading to see how different technologies can help reduce physician burnout.
How Health Tech Can Reduce Physician Burnout
Reduce Administrative Work
According to the MedScape 2023 Physician Burnout & Depression Report, 61% of physicians said the thing that contributes most to their burnout is too many bureaucratic tasks, like charting and administrative paperwork. 70% of physicians report spending 10 or more hours a week on administrative tasks and paperwork. This is time that is taken away from interacting with patients and enjoying their own personal lives outside of work.
There is a lot of room to automate administrative tasks in clinical care. Health tech can digitize manual tasks and reduce time on paperwork. This gives clinicians more time to focus on patients or on themselves, helping to reduce burnout.
The US Surgeon General says that improving interoperability can address burdens that contribute to clinician burnout. For clinicians with different EHRs, it can be difficult to share patient information, leading organizations to fax over files or make phone calls instead of sharing notes digitally. Interoperability issues also exist with different apps that should connect to the EHR. For example, if a clinical decision support tool is not integrated into the EHR, how often is the clinician going to use it during patient appointments when they are already pressed for time?
To improve interoperability between EHRs, consider using HIPAA-compliant clinical collaboration platforms that allow users to share information in real-time. When purchasing new platforms or apps to add to a clinical tech stack, check how the software can be integrated with the EHR. The IT department may be able to improve how apps are integrated in the EHR, and can help save time in other ways, such as reducing extra log-ins to different platforms.
Manage EHR Inbox
In 2023, the American Medical Association is focusing on improving inbox management as their top physician burnout solution. EHR inboxes are overflowing. Patient portal message levels are at 157% of what they were pre-pandemic, piling on top of clinicians already-large workloads. A study of PCPs found that on average, physicians spent 52 minutes a day on inbox management alone.
Health tech can help improve the EHR inbox for physicians to reduce burnout. A big part of this help is having the IT department restructure clinical inboxes. For example, IT can set up systems to automatically route messages to a certain person, department, or folder, which can help direct the message to another member on the team besides the physician. IT can also help clinicians create shortcut templates for common emails that clinicians send, such as telling a patient that lab results are normal.
Give Clinicians Autonomy With Technology
You choose the apps on your phone that do a range of things from keeping you entertained to tracking your finances to monitoring health and fitness goals and beyond. Would you be frustrated if you couldn’t pick the apps you use? Clinicians feel drained from a lack of autonomy in their work and in the tools they use. Physicians who have a lot of control in their work environment had lower burnout than those who had low control in their work environment.
Getting clinician input into the technology they use has the potential to ameliorate burnout. This clinician involvement should not just be performative, but should allow clinicians to have conversations with administrators about the tools they want to come to a compromise. Some technologies allow clinicians to use the app or software on an individual basis, so as long as these are secure and compliant, clinicians should be encouraged to use these tools.
Reduce Workplace Violence
Violence against healthcare workers is a critical issue that needs to be addressed. Workplace violence is at an unprecedented level, and healthcare workers need better protection. Not only does violence impact physical and psychological safety, but it is also associated with higher levels of burnout.
Technology can help reduce workplace violence. Traditionally, people may think of this technology as security cameras and hallways only accessible by staff badge. While these can be great tools, there is other technology available that can address workplace violence. Wearable panic buttons and safety badges allow staff to discreetly call for help, quickly brining de-escalation and security teams to the scene. Organizations can also implement a system that flags patients (or visitors for patients) that were aggressive towards clinicians in previous encounters. This gives clinicians a heads up before they work with the patient, and also gives clinicians an opportunity to alert security, call in de-escalation teams, or take other actions to reduce the potential for aggression or violence.
Which physician burnout solutions do you use in your organization? How does technology play a role? Let us know on social media.