Highlight Report

We must take care of those that take care of us

July 1, 2021

The world has been experiencing a shortage of doctors, nurses, and other clinicians for a while, and it is about to get worse. The World Health Organization (WHO) projects a shortfall of 18 million health workers by 2030, while the US could see an estimated shortage of between 54,000 to 140,000 physicians, not to mention nurses and other health workers. While there are many reasons for this, we will address ways to help keep doctors practicing.

With doctors spending more than a quarter of their time on administrative functions, its time to blow up all the bureaucracy

The increasing volume of administrative functions has hampered clinicians’ ability to deliver care to their patients. Doctors are subject to increased documentation and electronic health records (EHR) enforcement by health plans and regulators. Doctors also face increased scrutiny while seeking reimbursement for the care they deliver. While the intent for high-quality documentation is necessary, they have increased the burden on already busy doctors.

There is an opportunity to simplify the operating environment for doctors by enabling artificial intelligence (AI) to manage the administrative functions and aid doctors in their clinical duties by delivering patient-relevant information at the point of care.

Technology-driven alerts are exhausting—physically and mentally

Clinicians’ administrative burdens paired with care duties, the hours they keep, and the stress of their responsibilities make doctors a tired group.

Technology’s insistence on keeping clinicians constantly updated through their wearables has exacerbated the situation. A study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that 80% to 99% of alarms are false or clinically insignificant and do not represent a real danger for patients. Alert fatigue can cause anxiety, sleep deprivation, and clinician burnout, impacting patient safety.

AI can prioritize alerts by bundling non-urgent alerts and delivering them as a function of a next-best-action algorithm allowing doctors to address only urgent alerts instead of addressing every “ding” from their smart device. Addressing alert fatigue among clinicians will aid in improving their experience delivering healthcare.

Little wonder they are going mental

The pandemic increased the pressure of caring for patients, worsening the mental health situation for doctors. Doctors often eschew getting needed help from mental health professionals because of fears of losing job opportunities, the ability to practice, and their peers’ respect. Neglected mental health care has a direct bearing on a doctor’s ability to care for their patients.

Clinicians have a way to address mental health using technology, just like they would encourage their patients to use telehealth given the convenience of accessing care from where they are. In addition, there are digital therapeutic interventions that monitor and manage mental health issues that would be ideal for clinicians.

The Bottom Line: We must take care of those who take care of us by leveraging technology to simplify and improve supports for our doctors

Technologies can help ease the administrative burdens and aid clinical decisions. There must be a concerted effort to make the possibility a reality, which falls on all of us in the healthcare ecosystem.

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