Guest Column | January 27, 2017

Integrated Workflow Automation: A Prescription For Reducing Physician Burnout

HOT Frustrated Doctor

By Arman Samani, Chief Technology Officer, AdvancedMD

The 2016 survey commissioned by The Physician Foundation revealed close to one-half of physicians report frequent or constant feelings of professional burnout. Physicians identified “regulatory/paperwork burdens and erosion of clinical autonomy” as the primary source of their dissatisfaction. The report references several times physicians spend 21 percent of their time engaged in non-clinical paperwork. Only 13.9 percent said they have the time needed to provide the highest standards of care.

At the same time, the burden of higher deductibles is actively involving an increasing number of patients in their healthcare. As healthcare consumers, patients now shop around for healthcare as they would for cars or electronics. Whoever provides the best medical care and the most favorable patient experience at the right cost wins their business.

Having these two varying but intensifying perspectives on healthcare can have a profound impact on how care is delivered and received in a politically uncertain future. To solve the physician burnout/patient engagement dilemma, a technology-enabled, integrated workflow is key.

But first, let’s take a quick retrospective look at how technology has helped shape today’s independent physician practice:

  • First, the development of Practice Management software focused on registering the patient, maintaining their records, billing claims, and initiating payment collection.
  • Next came the EHR. Physicians began electronically recording patients’ medical care and prescribing data to gain benefits in recording efficiencies in areas such as prescribing and lab ordering. The EHR could also determine which medicines would interact negatively with each other.
  • More recently, patient engagement solutions have grown in importance as payment models change.
  • Business intelligence, reporting, and data analytics are growing in use.
  • The increasing use of telemedicine is creating numerous efficiencies for the physician and patient.

What I’ve described above are frequently disparate solutions that function independently of each other. Indeed, the majority of practices have standalone EHR, Practice Management, and Patient Engagement solutions that are at best loosely connected.

A truly integrated platform for the independent physician practice as well as ambulatory care is based on the concept that solutions shouldn’t just be Practice Management, EHR, Patient Engagement, or business intelligence. Rather, all these solutions are designed as one platform to automate processes and streamline workflow.

With such approach, EHR and Practice Management records are located in the same database and accessible to users with a single secure logon. Telemedicine appointments can be viewed in the same master schedule as regular office visits and the appointment details are seamlessly forwarded to billing. And if the technology suite is cloud-based, practice staff have the flexibility to review records, renew prescriptions, and make appointments at any time from a laptop or mobile device. Consider the automated integrated workflow the next phase of Practice Management, and practices that adopt it “practices 2.0.”

Integrated Workflow: A Win-Win For The Provider And Patient
The integrated workflow enables faster, more accurate and efficient medical care. Once the physician is with the patient, he or she can view the patient’s real-time medical and administrative history — from the number of visits to any balance due. The physician can easily document medical care provided and coordinate scheduling the next visit with the front office. And, as the physician documents procedures and diagnoses, they are seamlessly captured on the billing side for coding. Without an integrated system, these areas are challenging at best.

For the patient, this approach contributes to a positive experience that puts their care — and time — first. For example:

  • Prior to arriving at the physician’s office, the patient can complete intake and consent forms online, which are then seamlessly integrated into the EHR. When the patient arrives, all the provider needs to do is verify the information. There is no need for completing the same forms ad infinitum.
  • If lab work is prescribed and the physician needs to schedule time to review results with the patient, this can be done through a telemedicine app. The visit can be documented in the EHR along with the lab results, and the physician can also recommend and document measures to improve unsatisfactory results and schedule follow-up visits at the same time.
  • Triggers are an effective way for practices to engage patients in their care. Triggers are text messages or emails that remind patients of the need to take a certain action, such as reducing sodium intake because they’re hypertensive, having their blood pressure checked, or scheduling an A1C test. They can then click a link embedded within the communication for scheduling, engaging even busy patients in their healthcare.

Physician’s ability to better engage with the patient to improve health outcomes, either through lifestyle or chronic disease management, is also key in elevating Clinical Quality Measures (CQMs). The integrated workflow approach allows independent practices to do so in an efficient and effective manner.

The 2.0 medical practices that have already embraced the integrated workflow and realized the benefits of uniting all the technology elements notice improvements in patient satisfaction, financial performance and work-life balance. A strategic implementation of technology is helping them to make practicing independently as rewarding as possible.

As we look to healthcare’s future, the integrated workflow will play an increasingly large role in alleviating physician burnout by creating efficiencies in their practice and enabling them to focus more time on the patient. The patient will benefit from this increased focus and from their own involvement in the care process. It’s a win-win for both.