Burnout among physicians, nurses and other essential healthcare professionals has long been a source of concern in the healthcare industry, and it’s only gotten worse since Covid-19 struck. The good news is that remote care technology like remote patient monitoring (RPM) gives healthcare operators easy access to a useful and cost-effective tool for reducing physician burnout.
Understanding the importance of reducing physician burnout
A term describing those whose work may be compromised due to exhaustion, fatigue or other difficulties, burnout has surged in the wake of Covid-19. From about 40% before the pandemic, burnout among physicians was calculated to be as high as 62.8% in 2022. Those are serious numbers, and they impact not only doctors but the organizations they work for and the patients they treat.
For instance, errors caused by burnout can lead to negative health outcomes, reduced patient satisfaction and an increased risk of litigation. Burnout also contributes to higher turnover, with affected doctors more likely to quit their jobs or retire early — a situation that most healthcare organizations can hardly afford at a time when skilled clinical workers are at a premium.
With RPM-powered remote care systems, however, operators have an effective tool for fighting back and reducing physician burnout. Here are a few ways that RPM helps get this important job done.
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4 ways remote care can help reduce physician burnout
The job of reducing physician burnout begins with understanding its causes. And those usually include “inadequate support, escalating workloads and administrative burdens, chronic underinvestment in public health infrastructure, and moral injury from being unable to provide the care patients need,” Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., M.B.A. in a 2022 Perspective published by the New England Journal of Medicine.
A 2018 Medscape survey of doctors cited in Physicians Weekly also noted that burnout often happens when “doctors feel they can’t make the best use of their time,” or “lack the autonomy to provide the best care for their patients,” or feel that they’re “being rushed” in service of profitability.
Data like this show that burnout arises as much from emotional frustration as physical exhaustion. With more of their day taken up with tasks they don’t necessarily want to do, it makes sense to focus on helping them regain a sense of career fulfillment. And with its focus on efficiency, ease of use and expanded clinical capabilities, remote care can be leveraged to do just that.
#1: Reducing the frustration associated with administrative tasks
Especially when fully integrated into an organization’s EHR system, telehealth technology makes many daily tasks much faster and easier — everything from taking down notes to getting urgent lab results to simply checking in with patients. And especially for understaffed facilities, this can be a powerful way to address one of the key causes of burnout.
Because the best RPM devices safely and seamlessly transmit patient data directly to the care provider’s EHR system on a continuous or near-continuous basis, there’s less manual work to be done. This doesn’t just lessen the burden on workers, but also reduces error and the stress associated with it. It can also help eliminate the frustration that some physicians feel from being tasked with duties outside of their area of perceived interest or expertise.
Sophisticated RPM platforms also provide automated analysis of patient trends, further reducing the manual analysis necessary from doctors. Automated alerts allow for earlier detection of patient events, which can help nurses handle those situations without the intervention of a physician in the first place.
#2: Improving communication, collaboration and teamwork
Remote care can be a powerful tool for reducing physician burnout not only because it eliminates inefficiency, but also because it makes active improvements in some key clinical workflows and capabilities. The end result is a higher, more satisfactory level of patient care that helps nurture better outcomes among patients and job satisfaction among clinical workers.
For instance, more effective communication and sharing of information means care teams can more easily and effectively collaborate. In addition to fostering teamwork in an industry where departments tend to be siloed, this can help relieve stress and potential feelings of isolation among primary care providers by giving them a broader base of decision support to draw upon.
Writing at mHealthIntelligence, Eric Wicklund points to a New Hampshire-based network that links neurologists at its central medical center to smaller hospitals in the vicinity. Doing so saves physicians and care teams in rural areas the stress and hard work of transferring “critically injured patients to a larger facility because they don’t have the skills or resources to treat on-site.”
#3: Providing a more flexible, rewarding work/life balance
The convenience of remote care can also contribute to a much more satisfying work/life balance for those physicians who choose to embrace it. Even if they can’t do it every day, working from the comfort of their own homes on occasion, and even deciding to some extent when they can do so, can be powerful tool for reducing physician burnout.
Because it allows for more flexible scheduling of patient consultations, remote care can also help reduce the frustration and wasted time of missed appointments. And, at a time when many physicians are frustrated by the demands of value-based care and other perceived barriers between them and the job of patient care, the direct connection offered by remote care can also be attractive.
The work-from-home flexibility offered by remote care technology also offers the obvious benefit of reducing the need for commuting — no small advantage to facilities actively recruiting workers. It also helps to ensure that doctors and patients stay connected during severe weather events or other crises, which not only helps preserve the quality of care but also the satisfaction of both patients and providers.
#4: Embracing the trend toward telehealth technology
True, some physicians may have been less than enthusiastic about telehealth before 2020. But Covid-19 changed that, not only demonstrating the benefits of remote care but also establishing it as an industry standard. The upshot is that more healthcare professionals than ever are actively embracing careers in RPM. These clinicians don’t just prefer to work with EHR-integrated RPM systems, but have largely come to expect them (especially younger workers).
The development of smaller, more portable technology devices and platforms over the past few years has certainly contributed to this enthusiasm. “Whereas providers once had to go to the technology, such as a nurse’s station or a computer in the office, they can now bring the technology with them as they make their rounds,” as Dr. Murthy writes in the NEJM report.
The Medscape survey found that the willingness of physicians to use telehealth is currently at 69%, up from 57% back in 2015. That trend is underlined by Dr. Pooja Aysola, who explained to HIMSS Media that she “hadn’t ever considered a career in virtual care until a few months into the pandemic,” when her shifts in the emergency department were reduced as a result of cutbacks in elective procedures.
What began as a temporary career fix soon revealed themselves as valuable benefits in their own right: “I ended up loving the flexibility to see patients at home and on my own schedule,” she said. “I’m hopeful this new trend will allow more clinicians to create career paths that work for them, rather than against them.”
Reducing physician burnout is just the beginning
“Burnout is not only about long hours,” writes Dr. Murthy. “It’s about the fundamental disconnect between health workers and the mission to serve that motivates them.”
And with the benefits outlined here, telehealth solutions like RPM may be the most direct tool that operators have to preserve that mission.
As a leading provider of RPM solutions, CareSimple specializes in helping healthcare operators leverage technology to meet a wide variety of patient care needs. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help you meet your unique operational goals, we invite you to take a closer look at our solutions by scheduling a free demo today.
And if you’re looking for a complete guide to remote patient monitoring, don’t miss our new Ultimate Guide to RPM, offering everything from basic definitions to detailed looks at cost payment models that use remote care technology.