Helping to Reduce Physician Burnout With the Touch of a Few Buttons
Here’s how an orthopedic EHR can be part of the solution.
Medical professionals understand that becoming a doctor entails endless nights of studying, nearly a decade of education, years spent in residency, the accumulation of debt and much more. Particularly in the beginning of a young doctor’s career, the rush of it all eclipses the lack of sleep, low wages and any impact on personal life. However, as the paperwork continues to pile up and the late nights become too numerous to count, we become all too familiar with the growing epidemic facing physicians today: burnout.
Physician burnout, which can be defined as emotional exhaustion, inefficiency, and long-term stress, is reaching critical levels, now affecting over 50 percent of all U.S physicians. We’re on a daily sprint of 15-minute patient appointments, trying to keep pace with ever-changing billing codes, dealing with complex, paper-based processes like prior authorization—all while using old-school methods like faxing to engage patients and payers. We spend more time documenting a patient’s visit than actually engaging with that patient.
While we can trace some of the burnout to poor staffing ratios, that’s not the full story. Technological innovations—which streamline workflows in many other professions—can create bigger barriers for physicians. This needs to change—it’s not acceptable that many doctors suffer a digital downgrade the second they start caring for patients.
Understanding The Cause
One of the major reasons for physician burnout could be the inefficiencies produced by today’s onerous documentation requirements. Legacy EHR systems not designed for a specific specialty and workflow may actually increase the administrative burden.
Documentation is far more than just clinical notes; it now includes medical necessity clauses for surgical repairs, quality measures for MIPS and billing codes. Many physicians attribute “documentation fatigue” to spending too much time on a computer and less time with patients. A study by The Annals of Internal Medicine found that for every hour of clinical face time with patients, nearly two additional hours are spent on an EHR completing desk work each day.
Rightly so, many physicians are quick to blame the EHR as the cause of clerical burden, contributing to feelings of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and a reduced sense of personal accomplishment. However, new user-friendly technology exists. Today’s specialty-specific EHRs may be used to help reduce the user’s cognitive load and create efficiencies in a practice’s workflow.
Where To Turn
The medical community has raised concerns related to physician burnout, and as an orthopedic surgeon and Medical Director of Orthopedics at Modernizing Medicine, I’m committed to being part of the solution. I’ve seen how technology can grow your practice, increase the quality of care delivered, reduce physician burnout and return that elusive work/life balance. Here are a few tips for making technology a positive aspect of patient care:
Find the right orthopedic EHR solution for your practice. It’s important to recognize that the “one-size-fits-all” model does not work—software designed for family physicians is not right for an orthopedic practice. An EHR system should remember physician preferences and adapt to your workflows, rather than forcing your practice to conform to the system. With an EHR designed with orthopedic-specific content and workflows, I can easily treat my osteoarthritis or joint replacement patients. I can also improve practice efficiencies with reduced clinical documentation, e-prescribing and electronic interfaces with PACS imaging and physical therapy systems.
Focus on data. Look for orthopedic EMR systems with structured data and automated reporting features to make documenting simpler and more easily track patients progress. Automated reporting, billing and documenting can improve practice efficiencies. Additionally, your orthopedic EHR should have a built-in solution that collects MIPS data and tracks your estimated progress on each measure, reducing time and effort on reporting.
Ensure interoperability. A recent study found that more than 8 in 10 physicians have adopted an EHR, meaning a significant amount of patient data is being captured and stored digitally. Yet, all too often, data sharing between providers remains the domain of outdated methods like phone calls and faxing. Identifying an interoperable solution is key to improving operations. For example, I want my orthopedic EMR to interface with my PACS and physical therapy software. This is vital to the continuity of care for my patients.
Engage the patient. The consumerization of healthcare means patients are more responsible than ever for their care. Patient portals and mobile applications allow patients to access test results and physician instructions at all times and take an active role in ensuring key elements of their medical history and medication list are up to date. Not only does this help free up your time, but it can also reduce errors. Additionally, the use of patient appointment reminders via email and text helps reduce “no shows.”
Improve overall practice efficiencies with an all-in-one solution. Burnout isn’t just isolated to the physician. It can have a ripple effect across the entire practice. Integrated practice management technology should offer easy-to-use patient scheduling, patient intake, office flow management and billing tools. Additionally, revenue cycle management (RCM) services can offload many of the tedious billing and collections steps, providing greater financial clarity for your billing staff.
Health of Your Own Practice
Although we are doctors, we often forget to follow our own sage advice—take care of your health, first. Get outside and enjoy the time you have with your family and loved ones. If you don’t, it may be difficult to care for patients. I am an outdoorsman and value spending non-work hours hiking, skiing, fishing, and camping, so in 2018, I moved my family to Colorado to better fit my desired lifestyle.
At the end of the day, we want to do what we do best—take care of our patients. For as much time as we spend involved in optimizing the health of our patients, we may lose sight of the health of ourselves and our practice. As technology evolves, so should your practice. Adopting the right technology can help grow your practice, improve efficiencies and actively engage your patients, and ultimately make you healthier and happier.
Jason Weisstein, MD, MPH, FACS
Medical Director of Orthopedics at Modernizing Medicine
Dr. Jason Weisstein is the Medical Director of Orthopedics. A native of southern California, he graduated Valedictorian from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City in 1998. Simultaneous with his medical education, Dr. Weisstein received a masters of public health at Columbia University in New York, NY. He subsequently completed his surgical internship and orthopedic surgery residency training at the University of California, San Francisco, and then went on to receive fellowship training at the University of Washington. Dr. Weisstein specializes in joint replacement and limb salvage surgery. His interest lies in the restoration of function in limbs that are in jeopardy, either from arthritis, tumors or other diseases. He currently serves as the Director of both the Center for Joint Preservation and Replacement and the Center for Musculoskeletal Oncology at the Paley Institute in West Palm Beach, Fla. He also serves as an Affiliate Assistant Professor in Orthopaedic Surgery at Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine.