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Leveraging technology to empower patients and reduce physician burnout

Article

Implementing the right practice technology can not only mitigate physician burnout, it can also enable patients to take charge of their own care experience.

Beyond impacting the health and wellbeing of physicians themselves, their burnout can negatively affect patients’ ability to navigate their health care journey.

“Patients are increasingly searching for convenience, comfort and control - all factors that enable them to manage their health care journey at their own pace,” writes Michael Brickman, MD.

“Patients are increasingly searching for convenience, comfort and control - all factors that enable them to manage their health care journey at their own pace,” writes Michael Brickman, MD.

Overall, physicians are experiencing symptoms of stress and burnout at an alarming rate, with nearly two thirds of respondents to a recent survey reporting signs of burnout. This burnout can create a ripple effect across practices when it leads to less empathetic patient encounters, rushed appointments and increased wait times. All of these factors can leave patients feeling discouraged and hesitant to seek care when needed.

Implementing the right practice technology can not only mitigate these effects, it can also enable patients to take charge of their own care experience. Patients take note of the technology their providers use - both in the examination room and outside of the office. In fact, a recent ModMed survey found that 90% of patients feel it’s important that their doctor uses the latest technology.

Here are three ways practices can leverage technology to empower patients and reduce burnout:

Minimize time spent on documentation in the EHR

One of the leading causes of physician burnout is poor EHR usability. Physicians spend nearly two hours daily dealing with EHRs outside of working hours, often navigating clunky interfaces, figuring out where to click, entering the same patient information repeatedly into the system, or taking upwards of 100 clicks to update a patient’s care plan. During patient encounters, these systems also force clinicians to spend more time facing a computer screen, significantly reducing doctor-patient interaction and undermining the patient experience.

Implementing a mobile-first EHR software system that streamlines clinical intake and automates documentation not only saves time, but it can enhance patient engagement and overall care quality. These systems enable physicians to manage clinical intake with the tap of a finger, while still ensuring all necessary information is captured in real time. In plastic surgery, for example, most of our patient consultations require physical interaction. Using a tablet-based EHR has enabled me and my colleagues to remain fully attentive during clinical encounters, without having to turn away from the patient.

Leverage convenient digital patient engagement tools

The consumerization of health care and the rise of mainstream tech are altering patient preferences in terms of how they interact with their care providers. Patients are increasingly searching for convenience, comfort and control - all factors that enable them to manage their health care journey at their own pace.

Digital patient engagement tools that integrate seamlessly into practice management technology can help meet those evolving patient expectations. Automated patient reminders, patient surveys, self-scheduling, and online portals with quick access to exam results, lab notes, and other information are critical tools that practices can use to help patients make informed care decisions.

These tools also streamline administrative tasks, minimizing stress related to administrative burden. A recent study by the American Medical Association found physicians are increasingly adopting digital tools in an effort to mitigate burnout - with 43% of physicians adopting patient engagement technology.

Complicated billing and payment processes have also historically frustrated patients, especially when a practice doesn’t provide digital payment tools. Implementing a payment collection system that integrates seamlessly with a practice’s EHR, practice management software, and other engagement tools is a simple, yet effective way to simplify this process for patients and reduce administrative burden for the staff.

Create flexibility with telehealth

The pandemic breathed new life into telehealth, and today it remains a tool that can balance flexibility and quality care for some specialties. Implementing telehealth services in your practice allows providers to meet patients where they are, especially when an in-person visit isn’t necessarily required.

According to a recent study by J.D. Power, a growing number of patients prefer to use telehealth for routine care, such as virtual visits to discuss medication options or test results. By enabling physicians to see patients virtually for more routine care, practices can optimize the time spent with patients who actually need in-person care.

To prevent patient burnout, we must first address the daily issues physicians face that have led to it becoming such a drastic problem. It’s critical to take note of how patients prefer to interact with providers and invest in the technology that meets those preferences, while not placing undue burden on practice staff. These strategic investments can have a lasting impact on the success of a practice, but also the physical and mental health of both physicians and patients.

Michael Brickman, MD,is a board-certified plastic surgeon and medical director of plastic surgery at the health care software company ModMed, in Boca Raton, Fla.

This article first appeared on our sister site Medical Economics.

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