Physician Wellness - Causes and Solutions for Physician Burnout

Physician burnout is a very real and a very serious phenomenon. Defined as a ‘long-term, unresolvable job-related stress that leads to exhaustion, cynicism and feelings of detachment’ in the Medscape National Physician Burnout & Suicide Report 2020, physician burnout is a critical issue for physician and medical practice alike. It has been recently identified as the biggest threat to radiology as a whole.

In the Medscape report, the group most vulnerable to physician burnout is Generation X. The age that’s most likely juggling family responsibilities, retirement planning, and multiple roles on top of the stresses of the job. However, across all age groups and genders, the causes of physician burnout tend to be long hours, overwhelming workloads and a lack of support. 

A recent article published by the American Medical Association (AMA) identifies 12 causes of physician burnout, detailing situations and environments that are impacting on physician wellbeing. Out of these 12 causes, at least five can be found across the entire healthcare system; cited as the most problematic are the laws, regulations and standards that govern the healthcare system and healthcare reform and payment policies. While still juggling the requirements of patient care and administration, physicians also have to manage internal processes and politics on top of complex regulations and rules.

Physicians are held up to extremely high standards across multiple levels, many of which are constantly changing to suit current legislation or changes in regulation. They have to stay ahead of complex shifts in medical aid, drug programs, and authorization processes while also maintaining their own continuous professional development (CPD) programs to ensure they are continued to be allowed to practice. It’s no wonder that physician burnout is a problem, or that the industry is in dire need of solutions that can minimize the pressure put on the medical community. 

Physician burnout, the statistics

Alongside the common causes of physician burnout, the Medscape report also found that most physicians would happily swap income for more free time and better engagement with their patients. Sleep, better patient care and improved professional satisfaction were highly ranked by physicians as tools to reduce the risk of burnout, but perhaps the biggest factor that was cited by those who participated in the survey was time. Time is considered the most valuable of physician resources. 

Another AMA article focused on physician burnout interventions supported these findings. The article found that if physicians shared their workloads with better teamwork, were given more time to spend on activities outside of just their traditional roles, and were provided with technology that reduced their administrative duties, they saw measurable drops in burnout risk. 

However, the use of Electronic Health Records (EHR) only has the potential to reduce the risk of physician burnout. The Medscape survey found that the older generation and Generation X were more likely to find EHR a burden than a benefit while the younger generation tended to appreciate it. Both did put it on their list of potential factors for physician burnout  because of the increased number of bureaucratic tasks that accompanied EHR. 

The use of technology is a benefit to the physician but the value lies not in adding it to the weight of their already punishing workloads and To Do lists, but in using it to cut the time they spend on those lists and tasks instead. That’s where physician burnout can benefit from solutions such as Aidoc where the artificial intelligence (AI) is designed to minimize stress and increase time spent with patients. 

How AI is helping to reduce physician burnout

The medical sector has been paying attention to physician burnout and looking to invest into sustainable and relevant solutions that can have a tangible impact on the problem. Investing into yoga retreats and meditation seminars may help ease existing symptoms but it isn’t addressing the underlying problems that are causing physician burnout in the first place. Research has found that only 13% of a physician’s time is spent caring for patients – the rest is wrapped up in admin which needs to be cut to improve physician well being and ultimately provide better patient outcomes as well.

There is immense value in AI as a tool for reducing the pressure put on physicians, not only in terms of admin, but also in improving workflows and workloads. The right solutions, developed specifically for physicians, can make a noticeable difference. Artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning solutions have been providing radiologists with essential support as they manage ever increasing imaging volumes and have evolved significantly over the past few years. Many of the leading AI-driven solutions offer numerous benefits to the radiology profession that include streamlined workflows, time-saving support, increased capacity, and improved diagnosis reliability. This minimizes pressure on the radiologist as they know that they are supported and they can improve their levels of patient care.

This is where Aidoc’s AI can support physicians in managing burnout and wellbeing. Aidoc is one of the market leaders in AI-powered radiology solutions, already deployed across more than 400 sites and capable of detecting acute abnormalities as they enter the workflow. The company has obtained 6 CE mark’s for its algorithms and has been cleared by the FDA for 6 of its solutions to be used in the clinical radiology environment. In research published Aidoc’s solutions have shown a reduced turn around time of 36.6% meaning patients get treated faster. Aidoc is a proven technology that supports the radiologist in their role, reducing time spent and improving workflows with the goal of driving improved patient care and physician support.

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