From new technology to work-life balance to evolving patient expectations – doctors deal with lots of difficulty beyond the immediate demands of patient health.
Here are three challenges facing physicians that top the lists in 2018.
1. Avoiding Burnout
Professional burnout is a growing issue in the healthcare community. Most physicians spend 30-45 hours a week seeing patients, then dozens more completing notes, returning patient phone calls and reviewing charts.
But burnout isn’t just about long hours, it’s about how physicians spend those hours. While doctors consistently rank “Gratitude/relationships with patients” as the most rewarding part of their job, they spending more time than ever on paperwork and administrative tasks.
According to recent numbers, 70 percent of physicians spend more than 10 hours per week on paperwork and administrative tasks. Last year that number was just 57 percent.
Professionals in health care can improve their resiliency by maximizing clinical efficiencies and making sure to get enough personal time.
Dan Diamond, MD, is a primary care physician who consults with healthcare professionals on how to overcome burnout. In a recent interview with Medical Economics, Diamond encourages physicians to remember their passion for medicine and not let the challenges of the day slowly drag them down.
2. Inefficient EHR Data Entry
Dissatisfaction with electronic health records is one reasons doctors decide to reduce their hours or leave medicine, according to a 2017 study. While EHR use has become nearly universal – 98 percent of US hospitals use them – the transition has created new challenges for physicians.
Doctors typically identify time-consuming data entry as the source of their frustrations with EHRs. As Dr. Robert Wachter, professor and chair of the department of medicine at the UC San Francisco, told an audience at the 2017 American Conference on Physician Health, “EHRs contribute to burnout by turning physicians into unhappy data-entry clerks, and also by enabling 24-hour patient access without any system to provide compensation or coverage.”
This challenge is particularly acute for some specialties. For example, family doctors spend on average 86 minutes of “pajama time” tethered to their EHR every night, according to a 2017 study.
Some physicians believe mHealth offers part of the solution.
Apps like Mobius Clinic use smartphones to eliminate 90 percent of the EHR work for every patient visit. By streamlining clinical workflow, sharing tasks with staff, automating dictation and much more, mHealth apps can help physicians get back hours of precious time for medical, not clerical tasks.
3. A new doctor-patient relationship
In the past, patients were more likely to follow their doctor’s advice without question. But with more options and available data, patients are arriving at appointments with their own ideas and expectations.
Many providers see this as “the erosion of respect.” They worry that a trend towards consumerism in health care forces physicians to spend too much of a short patient visit trying to correct misperceptions and gain patient trust.
Despite concerns, this new relationship isn’t necessarily bad. Patient empowerment and participation in decision making is valuable and clearly important to patients. But providers need new tools for working with consumerist expectations, as well as new methods for keeping patients engaged.