Digital Consultations and Referral Management Tools Positively Impact Care, Reduce Physician & Staff Workload
Unsurprisingly, primary care visits rose dramatically during and after Covid-19. The pandemic, unfortunately, intensified the demand and quickly became the reason for burnout in the medical field. While the extreme demand following the pandemic has decreased, the impact on physicians and medical staff lingers. Staffing shortages abound, and burnout among physicians and support staff remains high. During the crisis, many practices turned to telehealth to offer patient care. Now, it’s time to look for digital health tools that can support patient demands for care and decrease burnout in the medical profession.
Doctors Nationwide are Experiencing Symptoms of Burnout
These patterns were here before and were recently heightened due to the 2019 global pandemic. The rate at which we are seeing burnout in physicians is growing at an alarming rate. The mayo clinic conducted research in the fall of 2022 that supports the claims of burnout. According to their findings, 63 percent of physicians surveyed reported at least one symptom of burnout at the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, an increase from 44 percent in 2017 and 46 percent just ten years prior.
To understand physician burnout, it is essential to recognize the symptoms and causes. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) describes burnout in detail, but here are a few symptoms:
- Exhaustion – Physical symptoms include tiredness or lethargy at work. The staff member may also feel emotionally drained or dread going to work.
- Depersonalization – The team member lacks compassion for the patient, uses sarcasm or complains excessively about the job.
- Lack of efficacy – Tasks are rushed, or mistakes occur when completing routine tasks.
The risk of burnout is higher among those that provide clinical care. Specific roles can also impact the likelihood that a team member will experience burnout. Primary care providers often experience higher levels of burnout because of the volume of patients they see in a workday and the amount of documentation required to perform the role. As hours increase and conflicts occur with personal responsibilities, the risk of burnout also rises. However, a supervisor with good leadership skills can reduce the risk of burnout by helping employees manage expectations, adjust to changing job duties and prioritize self-care.
In 2022, over 200,000 healthcare workers quit their job.
Turnover and attrition were high among physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, other clinicians, and office staff. Practices lost both staff and organizational knowledge — creating a domino effect requiring additional work for every team member. In addition to those near or at the natural retirement age, many doctors choose to retire early because of stress and burnout. Physicians were required to care for the patients of the providers that left the practice. Administrators were tasked with recruiting and training new team members while also performing additional tasks to bridge the staffing gap. As a result, running a practice smoothly became more difficult as the pandemic ended.
We’ve yet to see any signals that practices will return to pre-pandemic operations, which were already stressful because of long-term physician shortages and increasing bureaucracy. One way practices combat burnout is by implementing tools that reduce bureaucracy and increase transparency.
eConsults reduce the time required to create a referral and ensure the patient receives specialty care advice. AristaMD offers Referral Nurse Navigators that determine when an eConsult is appropriate and create digital consultations on behalf of the physician — saving the provider and the patient time. eConsults allows practices to maintain their patient network in-house by providing a faster and more effective way of bringing specialty care. The use of digital consultations are also lessening the workload on specialists dramatically. We can offer the same high-quality specialty care faster, and patients benefit from eConsults by receiving care that can potentially reduce future visits to their PCP, specialists, or emergency room by having care that can report early warning signs or health concerns.
Referral tools help office staff create a referral, find an in-network specialist and track the referral process. This is particularly important when there is high turnover among the office staff. A referral management platform can prevent patient referrals from slipping through the cracks when staff quit. In addition, the ability to enter and send all of the patient’s details to a specialist online, without faxing and phone calls, saves time. Finally, AristaMD’s referral management solution provides transparency by showing referral coordinators nearby specialists that accept that patient’s insurance. This information avoids the common practice of a specialist ‘cheat sheet.’ Staff can easily see all the specialists in the area.