Reducing Physician Burnout with Virtual Scribe Technology

Understanding Burnout

Frontline healthcare workers have served and sacrificed more in the last 12 months than ever before. While everyone can experience job fatigue or burnout, our physicians are the ones hit the hardest.

Burnout is often described as long-term, unresolved, work-related stress that leads to pessimism, indifference, fatigue, and lack of a sense of personal accomplishment. Burnout can occur in any profession, especially those that are high stress, such as lawyers or emergency services. A 2018 Gallup poll1 of 7,500 full-time employees across all fields found that 23% of employees reported being burned out at work very often or always, and 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes.

Burnout is particularly widespread among healthcare workers, such as physicians or nurses. Risk for burnout among physicians is significantly greater than that of typical U.S. workers, and physicians also report being less satisfied with their work-life balance, according to a 2019 study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings2.

That Mayo Clinic study reported that 44 percent of physicians across 29 medical specialties had felt at least one symptom of burnout. Physician burnout poses risks to not only the health of physicians but also their effectiveness in care delivery, with symptoms being exhaustion, depersonalization, and lack of efficacy.

There are several common causes of physician burnout, and unfortunately, COVID-19 has only increased the number of physicians experiencing these issues. One of the top contributors to physician burnout is from needing to complete too many administrative tasks. Most doctors did not go into medical care with the hopes of sitting behind a desk filling out paperwork. Between charting, paperwork, and scheduling, The Wall Street Journal3 reported that, on average, physicians are spending between 10-20 hours a week on administrative tasks alone. As physicians spend more time working on administrative tasks, they, in return, lose valuable time with their patients.

In the past, in-person medical scribes have decreased physician documentation time, improved patient satisfaction, increased revenue, and decreased physician burnout. Traditional medical scribes sit-in on care appointments to complete vital encounter documentation while the physician can focus on the patient. However, there are drawbacks to using in-person medical scribes. Once wages, training, coordinating, and patient comfortability have been considered, the option becomes much less desirable.

With the current state of our healthcare system, physicians and patients must be supported and cared for in the most cost-effective, time-efficient way to prevent burnout. Virtual scribe services have proved to relieve physician documentation and administrative hours while also eliminating the downsides of in-person scribes.


Reducing Physician Burnout

As physician burnout continues to grow in the medical community, iMedX has begun exploring how to diagnose this problem and understand the effects it can have. However, it’s important to note that successfully managing or preventing burnout is unlikely without assistance.

Other significant factors to address and treat burnout include restoring and supporting work-life balance, increasing speaking time to patients and other physicians, and decreasing time spent entering data into the EHR. Promoting the restoration of a healthy work-life balance for physicians can ensure shifts are not too long and that there is enough support staff on duty at any given time. Organizations that actively support their physicians in self-care can expect exponential benefits.

In addition to supporting physicians with a healthy work-life balance, it is essential to consider how much face-to-face time the physicians are getting with their patients and other physicians. More face-to-face communication with patients has led to an impact on the mental health of physicians positively4. When a closer relationship between physician and patient exists, fewer errors are made, empathy grows in the physician, and the odds of burnout decreases. An emphasis on communication training is one preventative measure organizations can take. These training pieces would help physicians focus on the importance of introductions, collaboration with patients, reflective listening, and setting clear expectations.

A leading factor in physician burnout is time spent in front of the EHR completing administrative tasks. The amount of time spent in front of a computer screen has only increased over recent years. This increase in administrative tasks has led to exhausted physicians and has become an unavoidable aspect of the job. However, recording patient information is a critical part of providing care and will always take priority. As an institution looking to implement organization-wide changes to combat the growing issue of physician burnout, consider investing in mobile EHR efficiency tools. These solutions get physicians away from their screens, allowing them to focus and communicate better with patients. While these apps won’t solve this crisis completely, it can alleviate many pains felt throughout the healthcare industry.


Addressing Burnout with Virtual Scribes

Many healthcare organizations turn to iMedX Echo, a technology platform and service to help alleviate physician burnout by providing easy to use virtual scribe services. Time spent on EHR documentation has risen drastically in recent years, but physicians shouldn’t have to handle the brunt of documentation and data entry. With the iMedX Echo mobile efficiency solutions, physicians can reduce the time spent on documentation and help organizations refocus on what’s most important, patients.

With iMedX Echo, vital patient information is captured and documented by iMedX’s virtual, expert, and credentialled scribes. This enables the physician to spend their time focused on the patient, not the EHR. Additionally, after an encounter, a physician can enter additional notes to the EHR with only their voice using new AirMic technology. iMedX Echo drastically reduces the time spent on documentation for physicians both during and after a patient encounter.

iMedX Echo easily connects with popular EHR systems with an easy setup and video training for rapid implementation. Once connected, protected health information (PHI) is safe behind 256bit AES encryption while data is at rest or transit and only accessible by the physician or authorized staff, always using industry-leading authenticated practices.

Virtual scribes are undoubtedly the future of healthcare. The benefits of reduced physician burnout, improved patient outcomes, and increased revenue for providers lead to improvements for everyone.