By Dr. Ravi Raheja
Physicians today are experiencing more demands on their already busy schedules, and it’s taking a toll on their personal health and professional accuracy. According to recent studies, more than half of physicians report burnout, which is defined as a loss of enthusiasm for work, feelings of cynicism, and a low sense of personal accomplishment. However, establishing a telephone nurse triage service for patients can alleviate some of this stress and exhaustion.
Effects of Physician Burnout
While job burnout is a serious issue, it can produce critical circumstances when it involves a physician. Reports claim that doctors experiencing burnout have higher levels of divorce, depression, alcohol and drug addiction, and even suicide.
Additionally, physicians experiencing burnout have lower levels of clinical care quality and patient satisfaction and higher levels of medical errors and malpractice risk. Medical errors are estimated to be the number three cause of death in the United States, and annual costs for medical mistakes are estimated to be between 17 and 30 billion dollars. The US healthcare system cannot afford the financial effects of physician burnout.
Better Work-Life Balance
When a physician is on call after office hours or during the weekend, they often receive patient calls that interrupt personal time with their family or getting much-needed rest. It would be easier to manage if these calls were rare, but the reality is that patients need access to healthcare professionals 24/7 to avoid unnecessary ER visits. Many of these patient calls regularly result in advice that could have been given by a nurse.
Technology can help minimize the burden. Utilizing telephone nurse triage, physicians can ensure that patients are receiving prompt, quality care based on standardized protocols combined with custom orders. As a result, many physicians who use telephone nurse triage find that their phone doesn’t ring as often after hours, they are able to spend more time focusing on their patients during office visits, and they can be confident that everything is properly recorded in the computer for efficient billing.
There is no single solution to eliminate physician burnout. Providing work-life balance education early in their careers and offering continuing education and assistance for stress management can help many doctors. Additionally, telephone nurse triage provides a flexibility that allows physicians to adjust their schedule more easily to create a better work-life balance and avoid burnout.
Dr. Ravi Raheja is the medical director at TriageLogic, which is a leader in telehealth technology and services. The company’s goal is to improve access to healthcare and reduce costs by developing technology for providers and patients, backed by high-quality nurses and doctors. The TriageLogic group serves over nine thousand physicians and covers over 18 million lives nationwide. [This article first appeared in AnswerStat.]