Combating Burnout through Physician-Centered Technology

By ​Foster R. Goss, DO, MMSc

When doctors see patients, it’s often when those patients are the most vulnerable. Whether they’re seeing a surgeon, an oncologist, an ER doctor, or their family doctor, patients want the best care and treatment possible. They also want a physician who is empathetic and attentive. Yet, as doctors, we work in a demanding environment where our own wellness and vulnerabilities are often put to the test, and that can have consequences for both us and our patients.

That result is physician burnout, and it, unfortunately, continues to be a serious and growing problem in the U.S. “Burnout” is most commonly defined as physical and emotional exhaustion, a loss of interest for work, and a lack of satisfaction with personal accomplishment and work-life balance.

A recent survey by Medscape highlights how the problem is getting worse — it found physician burnout increased from 40% in 2013 to more than 50% in 2017. The same survey revealed the burnout rate was higher for those who manage patients with complex medical issues, including emergency medicine (59%), OB/GYNs (56%), and family physicians (55%). Research also shows that physicians burnout can adversely affect patient outcomes and may jeopardize patient safety.

One of the biggest contributors to physician burnout can be the technology clinicians must use. Ask any doctor, and he or she will likely express annoyance over the inordinate amounts of time spent doing clerical or data entry work. That’s precious time that’s being taken away from interacting with their patients. In fact, a Johns Hopkins study found that interns only spent just 12% of their time with patients while more than a third of their time was spent in front a computer screen.

This has to change. As an emergency doctor, the patient and provider experience, in addition to patient safety and quality care, are my top priorities. It’s why I’m so passionate about creating practical tools to help ease the stress and frustration that contributes to physician burnout and re-thinking how we leverage EHRs functionality to solve inefficiencies.

At RxRevu, developers sit alongside clinicians to understand the problem and find ways to ease that burden and optimize clinical workflows. By creating a customized Prescription Decision Support (SwiftRx™) platform, which can be integrated seamlessly within existing EHRs, physicians get best practice medication recommendations alongside cost information associated with that treatment, while still maintaining their workflow. Any relevant laboratory data is also surfaced, allowing the clinician to stay focused on the task at hand without having to navigate outside their workflow. We’re making technology work for clinicians — and because we’re focusing on the physician experience, physicians can, in turn, focus on patient’s experience.

But Prescription Decision Support is just one way to alleviate physician burnout. Scheduling limits, peer-support groups and resources, and encouraging work-life balance are also ways to improve physician satisfaction. By working together as a medical community, we can not only reduce burnout, but also reduce inefficiencies, patient frustration, and improve the overall quality and safety of care delivered.