Doctors are burned out. New technologies could help
By Nirav S. Patel, MD, Memorial care.
It is no longer a question of whether or when – doctors are burned out, plain and simple … and COVID-19 is only partially responsible for the burden. Long before the pandemic, hospitals were trying to do more with fewer people, operations, and physical resources.
Research shows that doctors who cover more than one on-call hospital have a burnout rate twice as high as doctors who cover a single hospital.
Add to this the lack of doctors, rising patient numbers and the added burden of the global pandemic, on top of balancing personal and family schedules, and it’s no wonder we’re nearing burnout crisis levels. Doctors seek relief.
This burnout can have a negative impact not only on the work-life balance and the well-being of the doctor, but also on the quality and safety of patient care. Indeed, some Reports state that burnout triples the incidence of medical errors. To make matters worse, a Study of Neurointerventionalists found that doctors who met the burnout criteria were 17 percent more likely to face malpractice lawsuits. Not only can this harm patients, but it can also harm health systems financially and public trust.
From a financial perspective, doctor burnout can cost hospitals millions of dollars each year due to doctor turnover and reduced clinical hours. Losing a full-time doctor can cost health systems an average of $ 990,000 each, causing the hospital to hire and replace a doctor, costing between $ 500,000 and $ 1 million. The same report estimates burnout accounts for approximately $ 4.6 billion in costs associated with doctor turnover and reduced clinical hours in the United States each year.
Fortunately, new technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, and the Internet of Things (IoT) have the potential to help. These technologies help physicians handle higher case volumes by taking on tedious tasks, streamlining and standardizing processes – which ultimately leads to more consistent, higher quality care.
As a practicing neurologist, I have personally started to work more closely with these AI-based neuroimaging solutions and my workload has become significantly more manageable. Just the simple way of getting notifications and accessing my workload from my phone has dramatically improved my remaining work-life balance. I used to have to physically go to the hospital or look for a computer, which in turn delayed treatment of the patient. Now I have access to more clinical information and imaging, which enables faster, more data-driven decision-making and shorter treatment times.
Despite the tremendous value of some new digital health tools, the transition to new technologies in your health organization can still be a daunting task for some. Too often doctors get stuck in existing habits, which makes changes all the more difficult. To further prevent additional doctor burnout from these new technologies and to ensure a seamless transition, I recommend the following tips:
Rich education and training. Before implementing new technologies, clinicians need to be convinced of their ability to operate the technology. Thorough training and instruction is essential before using the technology on patients. If doctors don’t feel empowered or see the benefits of the technology, it can lower morale and further add to the doctor’s burnout – and possibly even harm the patient.
Create a culture of innovation. Teams will only exploit the full potential of new technologies if everyone is fully committed to using them. Doctors need to be willing and able to learn and not be afraid to push the boundaries of innovation. There must be an environment that is accessible to ask questions and have open discussions about areas for improvement.
Don’t give up old processes entirely. While new technologies have the potential to change the way a doctor works, it is important to keep certain existing processes in place. The downside of all technologies like AI is that in many cases it still lacks a certain context that requires broader, qualitative thinking. New technologies should not completely replace people, but rather help them in their work. Seamless integration is the key.
The consequences and potential harm of doctor burnout are clear. Hospitals must take effective measures to reduce burnout, to further prevent the deterioration of the work experience of doctors, but also to prevent the negative consequences for patients. I encourage the healthcare sector to open up to new ideas and technology, and to recognize the potential that new technologies offer for better healthcare for doctors, patients, and the entire healthcare ecosystem.
Thank You For Reading!