From the June 2021 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
By Dr. Christopher Maiona
Healthcare providers, like their COVID-19 patients, are human beings, and the pandemic has taken a physical and emotional toll on them.
In a recent survey, physicians were asked if COVID-19 has changed their employment plans and, if yes, which options they’re considering. An overwhelming 54% said they plan to make an employment change, with 36% of those opting for early retirement or leaving the practice of medicine altogether. Another 50% of those who said yes plan to leave their current employer for another.
So, turnover is coming and the impact could be significant. The American Association of Medical Colleges predicts there could be a shortage of nearly 140,000 physicians in the U.S. by 2033. A major contributor is physician burnout, which stems in large part from outdated approaches to organization, regulation, and technology.
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Physicians’ years of medical school and hands-on training aren’t truly put into practice until a connection is forged with a patient. Quality healthcare is driven not just by a provider’s wealth of knowledge or sense of responsibility, but by passion. Physician burnout gradually erodes that passion and, even before the pandemic, was driving professionals of all ages out of medicine.
However, where some are finding their passion has faded, for others it was born or rekindled during the pandemic. In late 2020, an AAMC analysis found nearly two dozen medical schools saw a 25% increase in applications from 2019 to 2020 – what has been called “the Fauci effect”. For some, the pandemic exposed areas where healthcare is in need of reform, driving many young applicants to studies of public health.
Bridging the digital divide
For providers to be able to put their expertise to work, they need the tools and support to do so effectively. The first wave of EHR technology brought patient data into the digital realm, but was focused on the moving pieces -- not the people behind them. Optimized EHRs must keep physicians and patients front and center, so IT becomes an asset rather than a burden.
Here are three ways health IT can combat burnout and alleviate the pressure in the wake of the pandemic:
IT optimized for the physician
ー Technology hardly seemed personal until it became the primary means of connection between clinicians and patients during the pandemic. Now personalization needs to be brought to each individual provider and their EHR user experience. That means delivering a more intuitive approach to reviewing patient data or entering orders when and how it’s convenient for the user, based on their specialty, the patient state, and other variables. IT should also automate administrative tasks, such as entering notes and charges.