Physician burnout is one of the primary offshoots of the current U.S. healthcare staffing shortage. Many physicians are at breaking point, caused by heavy Covid-19 workloads, stress, increased administrative burdens, and other challenges. If this situation is not addressed urgently, it could lead to severe consequences for the healthcare system as a whole. Technology offers some options for fighting physician burnout, with remote patient monitoring (RPM) high on the list of potential solutions.
The Prevalence of Physician Burnout
The problem of physician burnout has been looming for a long time. A recent survey from the AMA, the Mayo Clinic, and Stanford Medicine showed 62.8% of physicians experienced symptoms of burnout in 2021, up from 38.2% the previous year.
In 2019, the National Academy of Medicine released a 312-page report showing high burnout rates, while older research shows a rising percentage of U.S. physicians reporting burnout in 2014 compared with 2011.
Two-thirds of physicians (65%) are experiencing burnout in 2022. This total is up by four percentage points from 2021, according to MGMA. Moreover, four in 10 medical practices (40%) had a physician resign or retire early during the past year as a direct result of burnout, with devastating consequences.
Painting the Potential Consequences
Workplace burnout can be debilitating for sufferers, leading to anger, frustration and exhaustion. However, it’s not just the physicians themselves who are at risk from the potential consequences of burnout. The effects can be far-reaching, including:
- An increased risk of physician error, leading to millions of dollars in lawsuit costs each year
- Inadequate quality of care, causing poor treatment outcomes
- Low patient satisfaction, leading to patient churn and reduced retention
- Administrative inaccuracies, resulting in potentially lethal treatment mistakes
- Resignation or early retirement, leaving the system even more stretched.
A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine estimated that costs related to physician burnout add up to around $4.6 billion each year. Finding solutions to the physician burnout currently taking place in the U.S. healthcare system is therefore critical, but fortunately, the deployment of technology offers several opportunities.
How Remote Patient Monitoring Technology Helps
Deploying technology in various healthcare areas helps physicians save time previously spent on administrative tasks, streamline treatment decisions, and reduce the number of hours they work. The use of electronic medical records (EMRs) accessible across systems, clinical support software, and telehealth technology all have their place in improving patient care.
Remote patient monitoring presents one of the most promising options for reducing the strain on physicians through its ability to expand providers’ care footprint, relieve time stress, and deliver more job satisfaction.
1. Providing Oversight of Chronically Ill Patients
Chronically ill patients typically need more attention than others. RPM services delivered by trained nurses enable physicians to oversee the progress of these patients by reviewing alerts and real-time data. RPM helps providers improve chronic care management and increase the number of patients they can attend to. Simultaneously, they can dramatically reduce their number of in-person consultations and ER visits and relieve some of their time stress.
2. Delivering Better Administrative Controls
Administrative duties swallow a huge chunk of physicians’ available time. A recent survey by the American Medical Association found primary care physicians spend more than half of their workdays dealing with clerical and administrative tasks. This is one of the main contributors to the rising physician burnout rates. RPM services help in two distinct ways:
- Decreasing admin workload: The software gathers patient data directly from the home health monitoring devices, transmitting it via Bluetooth or cellular connection to the data storage facility. This bypasses the need for physicians or their staff to enter the data manually, minimizing the workload significantly.
- Reducing physician time stress: Anomalies in the data trigger automated alerts, which are reviewed by trained nurses monitoring the program. In many instances, the nurses can address issues without ever involving the physician. For example, if a patient is shown as having forgotten to take their medication, the nurse can follow up and determine whether non-adherence is actually taking place or whether the patient merely forgot to connect their device. This saves a tremendous amount of physician time and frustration.
Both specialists and primary care providers can implement better administrative controls by adopting RPM technology, streamlining workflows, and relieving physician burnout.
3. Providing Data for Analytics Purposes
The data gathered by remote patient monitoring can serve multiple purposes, including providing analytics for use in real-world evidence (RWE) generation. RWE is gaining ground in medicine and helping physicians to understand how patient characteristics and behaviors impact outcomes. Practitioners can use the insights produced by analytics to diagnose patients more accurately, enhance preventive medicine, and improve patient outcomes. These factors all help to improve physician satisfaction, reduce stress, and minimize the risk of burnout.
Reaching Critical Mass
The benefits of remote patient monitoring can only begin making real inroads into the physician burnout crisis when enough practitioners adopt it as a digital health initiative. Research from early 2022 shows out of 100 practices surveyed, 57% already use RPM, and half of the remaining providers planned to introduce it by 2024.
Meanwhile, a study of Medicaid patients found RPM enabled nearly 50% of hypertensive patients and almost 60% of Type 2 Diabetes patients reach their control goals in the first 90 days of an 18-month trial. As the adoption of remote patient monitoring continues to increase, we edge closer to reaching critical mass needed to address the burnout problem and achieve the real benefits of the technology.
How can your medical practice benefit from implementing RPM services to support chronically ill patients and minimize your workload? For more information, please schedule a meeting with us.