There’s a lot of talk about how there are too few medical professionals to serve the needs of a rapidly aging population, but less attention goes to the equally worrying concern of physician burnout. It’s a solution without any easy answers, but the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization (MGRO) is taking measures to understand the reasoning in hopes of discovering tenable solutions.
Nearly half of respondents to the survey conducted by MGRO indicated that they’d dealt with some form of burnout, and the largest causal factor identified was the administrative burden that came with caring for their patients. But drilling into the more specific factors produced some enlightening results. The need to navigate through prior authorizations by other physicians, sorting through electronic health records, and deal with coding and billing were identified by doctors as the biggest risk factors for burnout. In short, it wasn’t the stress of dealing with patients that burn out doctors so much as it is the stress of red tape.
In search of a manageable solution, MGRO decided to focus their attention on electronic health records. What they found was a system that’s highly inefficient and filled with redundancies. The protocol for entering this data, combined with a lack of a meaningful best practices, resulted in over-sized customer documentation that was rife with copy and pasted and repeated information. And it’s a problem that can’t be solved with voice dictation, which can make the often jumbled messes of information even more incomprehensible.
MGRO sought out a solution through a partnership with IKS Health. It’s a company focused on providing burnout solutions, most notably in the form of virtual scribe services. Rather than relying on traditional scribes, who are pre-med students or transcriptionists with little specialized experienced, their Scribble system partners physicians in the field with trained physicians who handle the transcription services. It may be a more expensive option and one that requires a higher degree of training, but it could produce meaningful results in both minimizing the risk of physician burnout and creating more accurate evaluations for their patients. This virtual service has largely been implemented in primary care, but it’s already producing results. A quarter of doctors who use Scribble have stated that they’re able to take on more patients than before. And they also indicate more structured workdays with less work to deal with when they get home.