Overcoming The Chilling Impact of Clinician Burnout: How Tech Is Changing The Landscape

By Michelle Davey, CEO and co-founder, Enzyme Health.

Michelle Davey

Today, our healthcare system is changing, and it’s changing quickly.

What’s leading the way for the remarkable shifts we’re seeing in our industry? Record-breaking investments into digital health (more than $14 billion in 2018 alone). Every day, we see digital health leaders working toward more affordable and accessible care for patients everywhere.

However, as we evolve and advance, we can’t ignore the glaring problem that still plagues the industry: clinician burnout. It’s a terrible symptom of a system that’s no longer working. Clinicians are 15 times more likely to experience burnout compared to any other working professional, and they’re killing themselves at alarming rates — the highest of any profession.

I believe the very technology we’re creating to better serve patients can also save clinicians — as long as we’re mindful of how we bring forth change. Here’s how we can do it.

  1. Tech is helping clinicians prioritize flexibility, autonomy and career mobility

Our most recent generation of clinicians are approaching work very differently than their predecessors. Studies show that more Millennials are choosing to stay at home than Gen X before them. Many attribute this to our current economic climate and a changing attitude towards work-life balance.

In healthcare, technology is keeping pace with this cultural shift by empowering clinicians to live on their own terms. How? Currently, one in five physicians use telehealth. That number is expected to triple to more than 60 percent by 2022, with many stating that they plan to adopt new technology because they’re experiencing burnout and want more flexibility.

What does this new work-life balance look like for clinicians? A level of career mobility that hasn’t been available to them until now. For example, with asynchronous medical assessments, the days of darting from exam room to exam are behind us. These software-enabled questionnaires mirror a clinician-patient interaction, so clinicians can review responses on their own time to diagnose and develop a treatment plan in a matter of minutes.

  1. Technology is alleviating the pressure felt from a growing physician shortage

Burnout is intensifying another crucial problem in the healthcare industry: our physician shortage. Recent findings suggest that by 2030, the United States will have a shortage of 120,000.

What does burnout have to do with this? Many clinicians are reducing hours at work to alleviate their feelings of burnout. This is especially true for young clinicians who are starting families. Female clinicians in particular take on a disproportionate share of child care and family responsibilities. To manage this new chapter in life, they’re often faced with taking a “career detour.”

New digital health solutions are shifting this reality, offering options that allow clinicians to work when and where they want. This is a significant win for the healthcare system. We get to retain highly qualified clinicians who might otherwise have no other option but to leave the profession–temporarily or permanently. It’s also a huge win for our clinicians. They no longer have to ask, “is it possible to work,” and instead get to decide “when and how am I going to work.”

  1. Clinicians’ jobs are becoming more and more efficient  

One reason we’re seeing the fast adoption of telehealth technology among clinicians is because it’s making their jobs more efficient–not more difficult. We might think it’s a no-brainer that technology should make our lives easier, but in healthcare, that hasn’t always been the case. For example, with past advancements like electronic health records, a common complaint was the cumbersome administrative tasks that came with them.

Digital health isn’t putting new demands on clinicians’ time and bandwidth–it’s doing the opposite. The asynchronous solutions mentioned above mean that clinicians no longer have to be a walking database of medical conditions, contradictions, prescription interactions and more.

Because no stone is left unturned during dynamic medical assessments, we’re alleviating an incredible amount of pressure from clinicians.

A doctor may forget to ask an important question during an in-person visit. The likelihood of errors is heightened even further if a clinician is experiencing burnout. Now, clinicians can instead use tools that enhance their efficacy, efficiency and especially, the patient’s outcome.  

It’s clear that our industry is changing quickly, and it’s also clear that clinician burnout is still affecting our entire healthcare system. While technology is leading the way to a new future, it’s paramount that we don’t lose sight of mindfully supporting the people who make our healthcare system go round–clinicians.

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