Physician Burnout: Relieving Some of the Stresses of Our Job with RPM

MDLife – February 2021

By Frank Astor, MD, MBA, FACS,  Chief Medical Officer for WITHmyDOC.

As physicians, most of us can relate on some level to provider burnout. Long hours often due to inefficiencies in the work environment, electronic health record (EHR) stress, complicated patients, poor work-home balance and more…we’ve all probably experienced some it and all of it can lead to burnout. Add to that a high volume of patient visits on a daily basis and not enough time to spend with each patient, as well as a high percentage of either cancelled appointments or patient no shows.

We have to factor in the pandemic as well. With the advent of COVID-19 last year, burnout accelerated significantly. According to Physicians Foundation research in September 2020, 58% of physicians said they often have feelings of burnout, compared to 40% in 2018.

Burnout is more than routine stress. It is a legitimate medical diagnosis according to World Health Organization (WHO)’s ICD-11 adopted in May 2019. WHO defines burnout as a medical syndrome “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

Healthcare providers are experiencing new stressors as a result of the pandemic. The list includes fear of contracting COVID-19 and taking it home to their family, social isolation, salary reduction due to decreased hours or furloughs, the emotional impact of taking care of COVID patients, lack of hospital bed and resource capacity, and more.

A Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine article points out that the pandemic is accelerating the many negative repercussions of uncertainty and inadequate support, and the consequences are being felt by patients, physicians and healthcare systems. Studies have shown that burnout is associated with negative clinical outcomes; decreased quality of patient care; increased number of medical errors; and higher rates of addiction, depression and suicide among physicians.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecented challenges for healthcare workers, highlighting critical vulnerabilities in the ability to manage the mental health consequences. This could have long-term ramifications for those affected.

Increased errors can be a sign of burnout. U.S. clinicians spend 50% more time in the EHR than those in other countries. A 2019 JAMA study found that clinicians spend 90.2 minutes a day using the EHR, including 26.5 minutes per day after hours.

Among the tangible solutions that have been enlisted in the past several months to deal with increased provider burnout are providing mental health support and reducing administrative burden including prior authorizations, disability paperwork and EHR inefficiencies. Some hospitals have hired chief wellness officers.

Many of the inefficiencies in the workplace can be mitigated through remote patient monitoring (RPM) as a tool. Providers can increase their care footprint through the use of RPM, relieving some of their time stress and yielding more job satisfaction.

WITHmyDOC’s RPM@Home kit offers many advantages using the latest breakthrough in medical technology to monitor chronically ill patients that typically require more attention. Proactively reducing ER visits and readmissions minimizes emergent situations which could help to alleviate provider burnout. Our platform allows providers to receive real-time patient information on at-a-glance patient cards to quickly and efficiently review a large number of monitored patients. It has a notes functionality so providers can input notes from patient communications and track the amount of time spent on a monthly basis with each patient in order to facilitate billing. Its reporting functionality supports summarized billing reports that can be submitted for reimbursement. RPM@Home also has one-click telehealth capability while simultaneously viewing a patient’s historical record.

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