Clinician burnout is a deadly reality – is tech the saviour?

Michelle Davey, CEO and co-founder of Enzyme Health, writes about the effect that technology can have when it comes to the issue of clinician burnout. 

Our clinicians are burnt out. In fact, they’re 15 times more likely to experience burnout than any other working professional. The number is even higher among female clinicians and specialists like urologists and neurologists.

Burnout, however, is much more than statistics in a report. It’s a moral problem that we as an industry, and we as a society, have an obligation to address.

Our clinicians are killing themselves at alarming rates due to stress, burnout and depression. Can technology save them? I believe yes, and here’s how.

Digital health solutions are giving clinicians more career mobility.

Digital health is growing at an unprecedented rate. In 2018 alone, the industry received a record-breaking $14 billion in funding. In tandem, we’re also seeing clinicians adopt telehealth more quickly than past technologies. Today, 1 in 5 clinicians use telehealth, and by 2022, that number is expected to triple to more than 60%.

Why are we seeing this fast growth and adoption in the industry? One reason is because digital health solutions are making clinicians’ lives easier instead of more complicated (a common barrier of past technological advancements like electronic health records). Instead of losing autonomy and acquiring administrative tasks, clinicians are gaining a new level of career mobility that hasn’t been available to them until now.

As one example, asynchronous medical assessments provide almost complete flexibility to clinicians. Because these tools typically feature a questionnaire that mirrors a clinician-patient interaction, clinicians can review responses on their own time. Instead of darting from exam room to exam room, clinicians can efficiently gather the information they need to diagnose and develop a treatment plan for patients – often in a matter of mere minutes.

Technology can put a stop to our critical physician shortage.

By 2030, it’s estimated that the United States will have a shortage of 120,000 physicians. Clinician burnout is intensifying the shortage, but technology can help solve it.

In the past, if clinicians sought a solution to alleviate burnout, they often reduced hours at work or took a career hiatus. This reality has been especially true for women, who are not only more likely to experience burnout, but often have a disproportionate share of child care and family responsibilities.

However, this isn’t just a gender issue – it’s generational. Today, more millennial parents are choosing to stay home than Gen X before them. Reasons include the current economic climate and a changing societal attitude towards work-life balance.

The digital health industry very much aligns with this societal shift. Clinicians now have the ability to work when and where they want, instead of choosing between maintaining a career and having a family. This is a huge win for the healthcare system as a whole as we retain highly qualified clinicians who might otherwise leave the profession – temporarily or permanently. It’s also a win for clinicians who no longer have to ask, “can I still work,” and instead get to decide “when and how am I going to work.”

Consumer demand is changing healthcare’s workplace norms.

The growth of direct-to-consumer healthcare is putting more decision-making power into patients’ hands. Because of this, we’re seeing new demands from consumers around efficiency in healthcare.

As patients begin paying for more of their healthcare out-of-pocket and leveraging new digital health offerings, they see that there is a new way for healthcare to work. Using asynchronous solutions, patients can eliminate unnecessary in-person visits–along with all of the coordinating, time off of work and waiting that goes with them. As medical evaluations become more convenient, patients won’t want to go back to the “old way.”

Consumers and clinicians alike also realize that these technologies can yield better patient outcomes. During a rushed in-person visit, a doctor may forget to ask an important question. The likelihood of errors is heightened even further if a clinician is experiencing burnout. With software-enabled, dynamic medical assessments, no stone is left unturned.

In addition, these technologies are alleviating a significant amount of pressure for clinicians. They’re no longer expected to be a walking database of medical conditions, contradictions, prescription interactions and more. They can instead use tools to enhance a patient’s experience. Further, it’s becoming easier for doctors to collaborate across specialties, relying on each other for feedback and to discuss complex patient cases.

For the first-time in our healthcare system, the patient experience is becoming a consumer experience, and patients are demanding efficiency. This, in turn, will make clinicians’ jobs more efficient, too.

Clinicians are the people making our healthcare system go round, and we have a moral obligation to address the critical burnout problem they’re facing. It’s time to establish a new way for healthcare to work, and technology is leading the way.


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