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Technology CAN Increase Physician Satisfaction

You just have to make sure you’re focusing on the right technology - technology that brings physicians closer to their patients.

Technology CAN Increase Physician Satisfaction
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The Disenfranchised Physician

Ask a group of physicians about practicing medicine today, and you are likely to hear about how much of being a physician has changed in recent years. And, in fact, how much it seems to change every day. Large scale changes like payment reform, managed care and the increased cost of malpractice insurance are having a serious impact on the time doctors get to spend with patients – and, on their income. Add to that mix frustration with new technology and the result is burnt out and disillusioned physicians. According to the Medscape Physicians Compensation Report 2016,3 the majority of specialties averaged around 51 to 59 percent satisfaction, which means that a little less than half of physicians are unsatisfied with their job.

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Physician Satisfaction: An Important Metric for All Healthcare Systems

Burnout isn’t something that just affects physicians; it impacts patient satisfaction as well. A 2016 survey by The Physicians Foundation1 found that 49 percent of physicians surveyed experience feelings of burnout always or often. Only 14 percent claimed they have the time they need to provide the highest standards of care.

And this disenchantment has a direct impact on the bottom line. Because patient satisfaction scores gathered through CAHPS surveys are used to determine healthcare system reimbursements by payers, and providers are moving to value-based payment models at a significant pace (a 2016 HIMSS Cost Accounting Survey4 found that 45 percent of healthcare systems are using an alternative payment method), patient satisfaction is paramount.

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How Technology Plays a Role in Physician Satisfaction

Technology adoption by healthcare organizations isn’t going away; in order to address the challenges of poor physician satisfaction – and ultimately poor patient satisfaction – organizations must ask this question before implementing new technology: will this technology help or hinder physician satisfaction?

Research is unanimous that the sense of influence physicians feel over their patients is a determining factor in their job satisfaction. Advances in medical IT are meant to increase their sense of influence – by putting information at doctors’ fingertips to support more informed clinical decision-making and positive patient interactions. Yet, widespread disdain about the rapid adoption of the electronic health record (EHR), for example, shows us that technology has the power to support better patient care, but also to detract from it.

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The Key: Focus on Technology That Supports Patient Care

It’s clear that technology plays an important role in supporting physician autonomy and satisfaction – if it empowers them with better access to information to do their job well. As the authors of the JAMA article referenced above allude to, data will drive the healthcare decisions of the future, and in that respect, there is a huge bright side to widespread EHR adoption, while currently a source of vexation for doctors: the volume of available data on patients.

Revolutionary concepts like population health will use predictive analytics to harness the power of patient data, mitigating health risks to large populations of people, identifying opportunities for intervention, and hopefully lowering the costs of healthcare on a broad scale. For physicians, this should result in access to comprehensive patient data to develop more meaningful interactions with patients.

Yet many would agree that population health is a concept in its infancy and without a common definition. All and all, there is much that can be done right now to improve the way doctors interact with technology. Concepts like mobile health and patient portals are increasing in popularity, and serve to support patient care while making docs happy. Mobile health can furnish physicians with information that is often missing from an electronic health record. For instance, wearables can tell the “story,” of the patient – their activity levels, diet, sleep patterns and more, which augments clinical data stored in their patient record. This additional information can be interpreted by physicians to offer better, more personalized care protocols to their patients. Additionally, many healthcare organizations have rolled out patient portals, which work to both engage patients in their care and decrease the administrative burden on physicians. Portals allow physicians to post lab results, make patient records available, and collect crucial data like health history – without having to make phone calls or manually input data during an appointment.

While the current state of medical IT may leave something to be desired by physicians – and in some cases actually feel counterproductive to efficiency – advances in technology will have the power to reduce administrative burden on doctors, support patient engagement, and overall support the relationship between doctors and patients, which is so central to physician satisfaction. The future is bright as the medical community brings data collection and analytics into the focus.

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  1. https://www.geneia.com/news-events/press-releases/2015/september/physicians-say-experiencing-joy-in-the-practice-of-medicine-is-increasingly-harder
  2. HIMSS Analytics Cybersecurity Future Proofing Healthcare Survey 2017
  3. https://www.medscape.com/features/slideshow/compensation/2016/public/overview
  4. http://www.himss.org/2016-cost-accounting-survey
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