Imagine working in a field where nearly half of your colleagues experience burnout. This is the case in healthcare, with over 50% of physicians citing administrative responsibilities as the top cause of their burnout. For every hour spent on a patient interaction, physicians typically face an additional one to two hours working on progress notes, ordering labs, reviewing study results, prescribing medication and completing additional documentation. These exhausting processes can mean that physicians have to sacrifice personal and family time to meet documentation requirements while remaining HIPAA compliant.
Here’s what’s surprising: technology can actually make physician burnout worse. That’s because when a healthcare provider adopts a technology to solve a problem, they need to make sure that they understand the context around the problem. Otherwise, technology can actually be counterproductive. Let’s take the case of a healthcare provider whose physicians are overwhelmed by processing an influx of patients. They decide to address the issue by sending mobile surveys to incoming patients to fill out prior to the appointment (for the sake of argument we will assume the surveys are HIPAA-compliant). This might seem like a good idea to speed up intake, but just imagine what happens if the population you serve is technologically illiterate. Suddenly physicians are overwhelmed by confused patients who are anxious that their information isn’t getting through.
Now let’s flip it around. Let’s assume that the healthcare provider realized the physicians are experiencing burnout because of the influx of patients but takes the time to understand the demographics and needs of the physicians and the patients. They realize that patients are uncomfortable with technology – but that the physicians and other staff regularly rely on their smartphones for daily tasks. They decide to adopt a technology that allows physicians to quickly scan and process any paperwork from their smartphone in a HIPAA-compliant manner, speeding up administrative responsibilities significantly.
Another example: when EHRs cause fatigue for physicians because patient information ends up scattered across different systems, forcing them to take precious time to hunt for important data on their patients. EHRs are important technology – but information should be centralized and physicians should be able to easily reach out to other healthcare providers if they’re missing critical data, rather than having to hunt for it.
Healthcare technology has come a long way and we now live in a world where there is no reason for physicians to experience burnout as a result of administrative responsibilities. The challenge is making sure that the right technology is used in the right place. And that requires understanding the context surrounding the challenges that your physicians face.