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Physician burnout in healthcare: Quo vadis?

Advanced medical technologies can significantly reduce physician fatigue, but they must be tailored to the implementation environment.

Physician burnout in healthcare: Quo vadis?
[ipopba / Adobe Stock]

Burnout was included as an occupational phenomenon in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) by the World Health Organization in 2019.

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Today, burnout is prevalent in the forms of emotional exhaustion, personal, and professional disengagement and a low sense of accomplishment. While cases of physician fatigue continue to rise, some healthcare companies are looking to technology as a driver of efficiency. Could technology pave the way to better working conditions in healthcare?

While advanced technologies like AI cannot solve the issue on their own, data-driven decision-making could alleviate some operational challenges. Based on my experience in the industry, here are some tools and strategies healthcare companies can put into practice to try and reduce physician burnout.

CLINICAL DOCUMENTATION SUPPORT

Clinical decision support (CDS) tools help sift through copious amounts of digital data to catch potential medical problems and alert providers about risky medication interactions. To help reduce fatigue, CDS systems can be used to integrate decision-making aids and channel accurate information on a single platform. For example, they can be used to get the correct information (evidence-based guidance) to the correct people (the care team and patient) through the correct channels (electronic health record and patient portal) in the correct intervention (order sets, flow sheets or dashboards) at the correct points (for workflow-based decision making).

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When integrated with electronic health records (EHRs) to merge with existing data sets, CDS systems can automate data collection on vital life signs and alerts to aid physicians in improving patient care and outcomes.

AUTOMATED DICTATION

Companies can use AI-enabled speech recognition solutions to reduce “click fatigue” by interpreting and converting human voice into text. When used by physicians to efficiently translate speech to text, these intelligent assistants can reduce effort and error in documentation workflows.

With the help of speech recognition through AI and machine learning, real-time automated medical transcription software can help alleviate physician workload, ultimately addressing burnout. Data collected from dictation technology can be seamlessly added to patient digital files and built into CDS systems. Acting as a virtual onsite scribe, this ambient technology can capture every word in the physician-patient encounter without taking the physician’s attention off their patient.

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MACHINE LEARNING

Resource-poor technologies sometimes used in telehealth often lack the bandwidth to transmit physiological data and medical images — and their constant usage can lead to physician distress.

In radiology, advanced imaging through computer-aided ultrasounds can reduce the need for human intervention. Offering a quantitative assessment through deep analytics and machine learning, AI recognizes complex patterns in data imaging, aiding the physician with the diagnosis.

NATURAL LANGUAGE PROCESSING

Upgrading the digitized medical record system, automating the documentation process, and augmenting the medical transcription are the foremost benefits of natural language processing (NLP)-enabled software. These tools can reduce administrative burdens on physicians by analyzing and extracting unstructured clinical data to document relevant points in a structured manner. That avoids the instance of under-coding and streamlines the way medical coders extract diagnostic and clinical data, enhancing value-based care.

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MITIGATING BURNOUT WITH AI

Advanced medical technologies can significantly reduce physician fatigue, but they must be tailored to the implementation environment. That reduces physician-technology friction and makes the adaptation of technology more human-centered.

The nature of a physician’s job may always put them at risk of burnout, but optimal use and consistent management of technology can make a positive impact. In healthcare, seeking technological solutions that reduce the burden of repetitive work—and then mapping the associated benefits and studying the effects on staff well-being and clinician resilience—provides deep insights.


Irfan Khan is the CEO & President of CLOUDSUFI, an organization that bridges the gap between human intuition and data-backed decisions.

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