The statistic is striking: 42% of physicians report feeling burned out. That’s according to a 2021 national survey conducted by Medscape that included more than 12,000 physicians across 29 different specialties. Interestingly, 79% of physicians said this burnout started before the current COVID-19 pandemic with the majority (58%) citing ‘too many bureaucratic tasks’ as the number one reason. While it is too early to measure directly, we anticipate that the COVID-19 pandemic will exacerbate this critical problem, further amplifying the mental, physical, emotional, and financial strain physicians were previously experiencing.
Why is physician burnout dangerous?
First, physician burnout is associated with higher rates of major medical errors. Physicians who are burned out may be less likely to identify and address all of a patient’s chronic conditions, thereby missing out on opportunities to improve outcomes. In addition, it can potentially lead to access challenges as physicians who experience burnout ultimately reduce time spent on direct patient care. The personal effects of physician burnout are also concerning: Increased risk for cardiovascular disease and shorter life expectancy, problematic alcohol use, broken relationships, depression, and suicide. Finally, it can negatively affect patient satisfaction.
The challenge: Increasing administrative burden, inadequate support
There’s no denying the fact that bureaucratic tasks, such as increasing documentation requirements, fuel physician burnout. According to a recent survey, clinical process design and the clinical structure, both of which are highly impacted by EHRs, contribute to approximately 40% of clinician stress. EHR complexity driven by increasingly detailed and nuanced data requirements, creates stress and distracts from patient care.
Healthcare policy makers and regulators continue to mandate even more documentation to demonstrate compliance with laws and standards. The advent of value-based payment models necessitates incremental documentation and workflows to achieve performance goals. Additionally, significant administrative efforts are often required to obtain prior approvals for certain treatments and prescription medications. These tasks are time-consuming contribute to physician burnout. According to a physician survey conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), on average, 24% of working hours were spent on administrative duties.
The solution: Simplicity, support, value, and flexibility
For an immediate impact, health systems and individual physicians can turn to health plan-sponsored programs that improve both clinical and financial performance. Some of these programs supply free clinical and administrative resources and assist with performance in value-based arrangements to yield financial incentives.
Vatica Health is one example. Vatica takes a physician-centric perspective, meaning the physician and clinical workflow are the central focal point of the program. With a keen focus on process simplification and efficiency, Vatica Health focuses on minimizing the amount of time and effort required of physicians. All aspects of the physician experience are designed to yield maximum value with the least amount of effort.
Vatica assigns licensed clinical nurses to each contracted practice. The nurses create a comprehensive, curated Vatica medical record for each patient encounter, presenting only conditions that are fully supported by clinical documentation. The result is that the physician is presented with a streamlined and prioritized list of conditions for review that they can complete at their convenience. Organizations participating in Vatica’s program realize incremental revenue, increases in the utilization of preventive health encounters (e.g., Annual Wellness Visits), and improvement in overall performance in value-based care arrangements.
There are also other ways to address the troubling dynamic of physician burnout and there are many resources currently available online. For example, the Well-Being Playbook 2.0—provided by the American Hospital Association (AHA) and AHA Physician Alliance, includes links to various webinars, podcasts, and case studies. The American Medical Association also provides a variety of articles that can help physicians experiencing burnout.
Taking the first step toward addressing physician burnout can have a long-lasting impact that benefits the entire healthcare ecosystem. Vatica will continue to do its part to raise awareness of this problem and lends its support to the collective, coordinated actions being taken across the industry to address the underlying causes of burnout.
About Vatica Health
Founded in 2011 as the first preventive services technology solution designed specifically for physicians, by physicians, Vatica Health remains a pioneer in physician-centric technology and support solutions that directly improve clinical outcomes, efficiency, and financial performance. Vatica Health deploys licensed, clinical nurses (on-site and virtually) that serve as extensions of your team at no cost to the practice. Practices retain all fee-for-service payments generated from the encounters, and they also receive incremental incentives for completion of the signed Vatica encounter.
The best part?
It’s a health-plan sponsored initiative. That means it’s completely free for practices to participate.
As practices continue to seek point-of-care solutions to better tell each patient’s story and improve outcomes, they need look no further than Vatica Health. Vatica Health is accelerating the transformation to value-based care by helping providers, health plans, and patients work together to achieve better outcomes. To learn more, visit https://vaticahealth.com/.