Posted: January 04, 2023
The Covid-19 pandemic caused many physicians to quit their jobs due to burnout. A study at the University of Minnesota found that the number of doctors leaving their jobs has increased to four times the number leaving before the pandemic. Luckily, there are many aspects of telehealth that can benefit physicians and help reduce burnout.
Burnout is classified as a lack of physical and mental energy, compassion fatigue, or a lack of emotional availability for others, and a feeling that their work doesn’t have any value. If left unchecked, burnout can badly affect a person’s mental health and even lead to depression. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that almost 30% of all practicing physicians reported experiencing depression during their careers.
The causes of burnout haven’t been exactly pinpointed by anyone, but many factors can contribute to it. In addition to different levels of severity, there are also different types of burnout.
Most burnout cases arise from a gradual buildup of various things. Some of these causes could include:
Overwhelm at work. It’s easy for physicians to get behind on daily tasks, especially electronic health records. Having a pile of undone work in the background can be difficult to handle, and can easily contribute to burnout.
High-stress environment. Physicians in all fields encounter stressful events every day. Dealing with sick or injured patients and their families puts a lot of pressure on a physician to be a calm, stable presence in the situation. Masking their emotions for so long can be detrimental to the mental health of any medical professional.
Lack of time with family. With so many doctors leaving their posts, a lot of added responsibilities fall onto the physicians who remain. This leaves them so busy that they may work overtime, or continue to work even after getting home.
Difficult patients or coworkers. When dealing with strangers who are already in distress, some conflict is bound to arise. Being surrounded by aggressive patients or bitter coworkers adds another level of stress to a physician’s work.
Problems outside of work. Issues at home can impact a physician’s mindset while at work, too. Trying to juggle work responsibilities while thinking over upsetting events elsewhere can add to the sense of burnout that a physician might have.
In addition to a long-term piling up of causes, burnout can also happen in an instant from something sudden. This kind of burnout can result from traumatic events such as:
Making a devastating error. The medical field is arguably one of the most dangerous places to make an error at work. Still, accidents do happen, but if a physician makes an error that causes a patient’s condition to worsen, this can be destructive to their mental health.
Negative outcomes. Many physicians work daily with patients who have very severe ailments. If a doctor has been working with a patient for any length of time and the patient experiences a sudden turn for the worse, the doctor can be impacted and even blame themselves for it.
Tragedy at home. A circumstance such as the death of a family member or the end of a relationship can make any person struggle mentally. But for physicians who must continue to handle equally distressing situations at work, the effect can be even more harmful.
Most aspects of telehealth are designed to benefit providers as well as patients. Features such as virtual visits and the incorporation of AI into electronic health records give providers more time to focus on patient connection and their own home life. Here are just a few ways that telehealth helps healthcare providers not to suffer from burnout.
To keep burnout from setting in, physicians must have a healthy balance between their work life and their home life. Remote patient monitoring and virtual visits are two telehealth features that encourage this.
Remote Patient Monitoring refers to the use of technology and devices to monitor a patient’s condition when they aren’t in person with their doctor. It allows physicians to free up more time during their day when they might have been visiting with that patient, so they can be more efficient at work and not have anything left over to complete during overtime or at home.
Virtual Visits have a similar impact. Since they usually last a significantly shorter time than an in-person visit, virtual visits clear time for physicians to see more patients, leaving them feeling accomplished when they get home.
The vast majority of medical professionals say that they chose their careers out of a desire to help others. Yet almost 5 hours in a physician’s day are spent charting information in electronic health records, or EHRs (Medical Economics).
Artificial Intelligence and Telehealth. One way that telehealth helps physicians get to do what they love most by connecting with their patients is the use of AI in medical documentation. For example, Let’s Talk Interactive uses a system that charts medical notes and patient information on its own, just by listening to the conversations that happen during a doctor’s visit. The program gets smarter over time and can create medical notes that are just as thorough as the ones a doctor might write. This allows physicians to focus on having meaningful encounters with their patients rather than spending the majority of their visits taking notes.
Being a medical professional of any kind can be a very mentally taxing job. This is why it’s so important that physicians have the opportunity to take breaks from work without fear that they will cause stress to their co-workers.
Filling Up Gaps. Telehealth services such as AI-managed messaging and online portals can be used to communicate with patients when doctors are unavailable. In addition to offering a concise virtual way for patients to access their information, these platforms also lighten the burden on physicians to always be available, giving them the freedom to relax during their time off.
Considering the positive impact that telehealth has, any medical practice whose physicians are struggling with burnout must consider integrating it into their practice. By reducing the pressure on physicians, cases of provider burnout will decrease drastically, and the number of annual doctor resignations could also be reduced. Mentally healthy, energized physicians do their best work, and that benefits everyone involved.
Looking to incorporate telehealth into your medical practice? Contact us at Let’s Talk Interactive to learn more about our customizable telehealth services so you can find what’s right for your practice.