Today’s healthcare challenges are often framed in terms of patient struggles. From high deductible plans to provider shortages, many patients are frustrated by our current healthcare system. What isn’t mentioned as much: that many providers are also under serious stress.
A recent report by the Experience Innovation Network revealed that 54 percent of physicians have experienced at least one symptom of burnout. But it’s not practicing medicine that’s burdening these clinicians. Other challenges are consuming their time and energies, such as:
- Too much travel. Many providers spend hours on the road, traveling between different hospitals and clinics. Some practice in half a dozen or more locations, particularly if their specialty is rare or they service a rural community. The National Rural Health Association reports there are only 30 specialists per 100,000 people in rural communities, compared to 263 specialists per 100,000 urban residents. Because their time is limited at each location, they can’t easily reschedule patients who cancel appointments, which delays care and can drive patients to other doctors.
- Reimbursement challenges. In addition to travel time restricting the number of billable services they can provide, clinicians may find their incomes limited by payer fee schedules and new reimbursement policies. They may also lose revenue to retail clinics and urgent care centers.
- Documentation requirements. Meeting compliance regulations, quality measures and payer requirements can consume hours of each day. Providers need to collect data, complete medical record requests and comply with changing policies – leaving little time for patient interaction.
- Technology barriers. Healthcare IT’s growing tech stack means providers must navigate platforms that don’t always work together, EHR systems that require significant training and support, and security controls that can block productivity and access to critical data.
Telemedicine Boosts Provider Productivity
By enabling providers to deliver services remotely, telemedicine can lighten their burden in two ways:
Virtual care delivery allows providers to expand their geographic service coverage without driving to different offices in different cities. Instead of wasting hours on “windshield time,” they can see the same number of patients in a shorter timeframe, allowing them to complete documentation during the day and spend more time with their families at night. If a patient has to cancel an appointment during the provider’s one day at the local clinic, the provider can reschedule them the next day instead of waiting for their next opening at that clinic in two or three weeks.
Because providers don’t need to be in the office to provide virtual care, they can offer extended service hours, including evening and weekend availability for patients who would otherwise go to urgent care centers. Without increasing their operational costs, they can expand their presence in the community and balance capacity across clinics with different patient volumes.
Providers can also schedule habitual no-show patients for virtual services, keeping the office open for patients who have a better track record of attending their appointments. Finally, providers can increase their patient volume by offering remote services to smaller communities that lack specialty and even primary care.
New Revenue, Stronger Relationships
While many changes are proposed for the reinvention of our healthcare system, none of them are likely to ease provider burnout today. The one solution that can help right now is implementing technology that facilitates virtual care treatments. By reducing travel time, telemedicine can put hours back in every provider’s day to develop deeper patient relationships or pursue new revenue streams. It’s the most effective way for providers to take back control of their income and their time.
This article was originally published on GlobalMed and is republished here with permission.