Technology must meet clinician needs to manage burnout

By | May 19, 2021

Health tech usage may have accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it only helped alleviate clinicians’ stress if it was installed before the outbreak, according to a new study. 

Research carried out by HIMSS and UK med tech firm Nuance Communications found 97% of doctors and 99% of nurses surveyed had experienced burnout at some point in their working life.

The white paper, From overload to burnout. What clinicians think reports that technology can either alleviate clinicians’ stress or contribute to it, depending on its usability and how effectively it is incorporated into workflows. Having to learn new tech skills and ways of working during the pandemic, added to clinician stress levels.

However, interviewees felt that technology such as AI-based documentation solutions could help their work situation by increasing patient safety, easing aspects of their work, shaping clinical workflows, and highlighting aspects of the patient record. 

The white paper is based on an online survey of 416 doctors and nurses, and a qualitative telephone survey of 27 respondents, carried out in Australia, UK, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark between 19th November 2020 and 26th February 2021.

WHY IT MATTERS 

According to International Classification of Diseases ICD-11 burnout is characterised by energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job, feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one‘s job, and reduced professional efficacy.

This can impact patient care, because it causes impaired clinician attention, memory, and executive function, leading to potential medical errors.

THE LARGER CONTEXT 

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An article in The Lancet published in July 2019 Physician burnout: a global crisis, said burnout among physicians “has reached global epidemic levels”, based on a British Medical Association (BMA) survey which found 80% of doctors were at high or very high risk of burnout. 

ON THE RECORD 

HIMSS chief clinical officer, Dr Charles Alessi said: “From organisational interventions around more systemised support, better work-life balance, improved mechanics of the clinician facing aspects of the electronic medical record (EMR), the adoption of clinical decision support – we can use the digital transformation that is now taking place globally at great speed, to help manage burnout.”

Nuance Communications CCIO, Dr Simon Wallace, said: “The pandemic has accelerated the technology agenda. However, technologies should be adopted for all the right reasons. Whatever the technology in question is, it must meet the needs of clinicians and not add extra stress or time pressures to their already hectic workflow and timetable.”

Chief nursing information officer, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Helen Balsdon, said: “Technology has great potential, but you need to get the human element right. Technology needs to add value and make a positive impact to what we do and how we do it, for it to achieve sustained adoption.”

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