By Devin Partida, Editor-in-Chief, ReHack.com
Most health care professionals have experienced the effects of burnout brought on by the pandemic. The long-term solution lies in lightening their workload. Healthcare technology can help with burnout and improve care, so it might be the best option.
How Burned Out Are Physicians?
Although health care workers have long felt burned out in their roles, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic drastically heightened those feelings. Over 62% of physicians across all specialties felt the effects of burnout in 2021, whereas only 38.2% felt that way in 2020.
The number experiencing burnout nearly doubled in a single year. A majority of providers across the U.S. feel physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted from the amount of work they have. The significant increase is a worrying trend, considering it has major implications for patients, physicians and hospitals.
How Does Burnout Affect Hospitals?
Physicians are fundamental to the health care system, so their burnout significantly affects hospitals. Many feel like they can’t provide the level of care their patients deserve. One study pointed out that the appropriate time requirements for care and documentation totaled nearly 27 hours daily, which is impossible to achieve.
The estimated cost of physician burnout in the U.S. totals $4.6 billion annually, according to the American Medical Association. While the profit of the healthcare industry isn’t a chief concern for most, it represents the legitimate and widespread effects of burned-out providers.
How Does Burnout Affect Patients?
Despite most hospitals facing the challenge of burnout, patients are calling on their providers more than ever. They message their doctors at a rate of 157% higher than before the pandemic, leading to over two minutes of electronic health record time per day. This behavior can increase physicians’ stress because it gives them more work, which leads to less availability in the long term.
Exhausted providers often aren’t capable of providing in-depth care. In 2019, almost one-fourth of physicians spent an average of less than 15 minutes per visit. While a quick meeting is not necessarily bad, they’re unable to interact longer because they don’t have the time.
Why Is It Important to Alleviate Burnout?
When physicians can’t afford to provide high-quality care, their patients are the ones who suffer. Some physicians started charging their patients for messages they exchanged. While it may seem harmless, it is concerning that the added costs could act as a barrier to health care. It’s critical to relieve physicians of burnout to improve care.
How Can Technology Prevent Burnout?
The benefits of technology relate to automation and efficiency, so they may be critical for successfully preventing burnout. Medical technology can take over or assist with diagnosis, treatment, monitoring, follow-up and record-keeping. For example, a smart hospital bed can monitor patients by tracking vitals and alerting doctors to changes in their condition.
As of 2022, medical technology trends in the healthcare industry involve using artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance physicians’ abilities. It can automate many tasks or help with key steps like diagnosis. Since burnout comes primarily from excessive work, reducing the amount is necessary for prevention.
How Can Technology Improve Patient Care?
Out of the 7.4 million misdiagnoses providers make each year, around 370,000 cases result in severe, permanent damage or death. Although not every instance is due to physician burnout, it doesn’t help when they have even less time for patients.
There are already instances where technology was used effectively in medicine. For example, wearable healthcare technology could detect an estimated 63% of covid cases before symptoms appeared by tracking heart rate. Because of technological advancements, people seeking quality care can receive accurate diagnoses and treatment.
Physicians can alleviate their feelings of burnout with remote monitoring or AI diagnosis. They’ll have more free time and less stress, meaning they can devote more time to crucial aspects of their jobs.
People benefit from increased accessibility because it lets them be seen faster, diagnosed more accurately and monitored remotely. Instead of approaching their doctor with every concern, they can use health care technology to know when a visit is necessary. The data from their devices can help providers make more accurate diagnoses. The reduced amount of unnecessary appointments also leads to less administrative work and workload, resulting in high-quality care.
Preventing Burnout and Improving Care
Medical technology is a promising solution for reducing burnout and improving patient care. While many factors contribute to the issue, the primary one is a prolonged excessive workload. Most physicians need a break, and technology can give them that.