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How Health Systems Can Help Address the Causes of Physician Burnout

Shifts in reimbursement, increasing reporting burdens and the rapid onset of extensive EHR documentation has filled the typical day for a physician with paperwork, box checking and a myriad of non-clinical duties that don’t merit or challenge their expertise.

Sometimes patients pay the price as they experience hurried visits with their caregivers spending much of the time entering in information about their visit. But it’s not just hard on the patients, who often wait weeks to get an appointment. The physicians themselves miss out on opportunities to connect in more meaningful ways with their patients.

Physician Burnout is an Epidemic Plaguing the Country

A recent survey found more than 70 percent of healthcare leaders feel at least some degree of burnout. Burned-out doctors are more likely to leave their practice, which reduces patients’ access to and continuity of care. Burnout can also threaten patient safety and the quality of care when depersonalization leads to less than desirable interactions with patients. One solution to alleviate these burdens is to get practices to align with a health system.

Five Reasons Increased Alignment with Health Systems Helps to Reduce Physician Burnout

  1. More resources. Health systems have access to capital and can make investments in physician facilities, infrastructure, technology and staff to create improved workflows and reduce the burden of everyday operations so medical groups are set up for success. This partnership can optimize staffing and skill mix; centralize EHR documentation; and improve office layouts so that physicians can spend more time doctoring patients than they do recordkeeping. Improved throughput often translates to increased volume and net patient revenue (cash collections of billing activity) for fee-for-service patients.
  2. Infrastructure for reporting. With the increase in administrative and regulatory demands, physicians are finding it increasingly difficult to fit more than eight hours of direct patient care and the requisite follow-up activities into a single work day. A spike in EHR logins afterhours has been coined “pajama time” for physicians, as they catch up on record intake and documentation. Health systems often have sophisticated quality measurement and reporting tools, and can take that burden off of the physician practices tremendously — reducing competing and often redundant work so that doctors don’t spend more time reporting than they do caring for people.
  3. Addressing shifting industry dynamics. Medical group leaders must address new market competitors, evolving organizational and governance models, quality and pay-for-performance measures, compensation plan redesign, increasing complexities in the regulatory environment, declining reimbursement, rise of the cost-conscious consumer, limited resources and new operational challenges as we begin to change the way that we deliver care in a value-based payment environment. Health systems increasingly have a number of value-based contracts already in place and expertise in managing them, as well as the resources to support strategic growth that can help physician groups remain viable in this era of disruption. This can help get busy doctors transitioning to population health management faster, and at scale.
  4. Access to performance improvement analytics. Despite a shift from inpatient settings to outpatient care, performance improvement efforts focused on independent doctors, clinics and physician organizations have stymied. Health systems often have measurement systems in place to show how one doctor stacks up against their peers on metrics like outcomes, in near real-time, for focused quality and care improvement work.
  5. Robust network of specialists and services. As the way we treat patients has evolved by incorporating preventative care and population health models, more robust referral networks are needed to treat those with complex chronic conditions. Health systems have deep community partnerships that can be brought to the physician practice, including access to behavioral health providers, social services and nutrition experts to address some of the social determinants of health.

Increasing partnerships and collaboration with health systems, through an alignment or an ownership model, can help provide investment so that doctors have adequate space, equipment, infrastructure and staffing to properly care for patients.

A new effort has been launched to help foster effective partnerships between affiliated or employed doctors and health systems. Premier’s Physician Enterprise Collaborative is bringing health system and clinical leaders together to challenge perceptions and practices related to medical group performance. For more information on the collaborative or how to best align with physicians and/or health systems, feel free to reach out to me.

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