Physician Burnout? Treat It With Practice Management Software

By: on October 1, 2019

Physician burnout is somehow both one of the dirtiest and one of the most widely used words in the medical community. Google it and you’ll see endless pages of results—all variations on the theme of physician burnout treatment.

And yet, burnout rates among medical professionals are not decreasing. This year, a physician burnout report from Medscape found that:

  • Nearly half of all physicians surveyed are burned out.
  • The biggest reason for physician burnout is still the battle against “too many bureaucratic tasks (e.g., charting, paperwork).”

Here’s the very good news: Doctors are being heard. Physician burnout is a commonplace idea, and we’re seeing more efforts made to help doctors prevent and overcome burnout.

The old school mentality of work, work, work is on its way out, and a burgeoning focus on work-life balance is quickly replacing it as the new normal. Hospitals and health organizations are working to provide more access to mental health support for their physicians.

But another treatment for physician burnout that’s proving most effective is the practice management system.

Teamwork—and practice management software—make the dream work

One respondent in Medscape’s survey, an internist, had this to say about physician burnout:

“It’s too hard to schedule time off; the rules on clinic cancellation plus poor administrative support to help organize and plan anything make it impossible.”

Medscape survey respondent

Physician burnout is an interesting diagnosis because it doesn’t just affect the sole person afflicted with it—burnout has a ripple effect.

Doctors can get burned out for a number of reasons, including “poor administrative support” like our internist mentioned. From there, other staff and employees are likely to feel the stress, and it becomes a cycle in which no team member feels supported.

Here’s where practice management software comes in. By empowering administrative teams to save time on things like scheduling and billing, practice management systems create space for more effective teamwork.

All-in-one and one for all

We’ve talked before about the three components that make up most practice management systems:

  • Billing
  • Scheduling
  • EHR integration

Each of these components of practice management suites serve to alleviate strain on physicians by automating processes and reducing time spent on administrative tasks.

Billing systems in practice management software handle everything from insurance verification to statement generation and payment processing, but the most helpful feature here for physicians is coding assistance.

Using systems that are up to date with the latest ICD codes, doctors can save valuable time entering notes by searching their software database rather than having to know what codes to use when.

Scheduling systems equipped with intake forms make doctors’ lives easier by enabling (and prompting) patients to fill out paperwork ahead of their appointments. Collecting this information ahead of time can help doctors better plan how long appointments will take, making schedule management easier.

EHR integration with practice management systems is a great way to better manage documents and paperwork. Through robust reporting tools, practices are able to submit reports to qualify for Medicare reimbursement without spending extra time compiling data.

While there are independent software systems that handle each of these three elements individually, the true benefit of robust practice management suites is the all-in-one approach.

Integrating each of these processes—and all of the smaller steps involved in each component, from insurance claims verification to automatic appointment reminders—saves administrative users time. That time, in turn, can be spent better supporting physicians and alleviating burnout.

Go with the workflow

This year, the Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of California San Francisco completed a program that reduced physician burnout in their organization by 45%. Using the AMA’s STEPS Forward program, UCSF leadership implemented four workflow changes to address burnout and stress:

  1. Call management. Incoming calls from patients were fielded better by resolving as many calls as possible right away rather than escalating calls to other team members.
  2. Inbox management. Qualified team members were hired and tasked with managing out-of-office physicians’ inboxes in order to handle emails without having patients wait.
  3. Schedule management. By blocking off time in physicians’ schedules for administrative tasks, doctors were afforded more time to focus on documentation rather than having to complete paperwork on top of a full appointment schedule.
  4. Workload distribution. By empowering assistants, licensed vocational nurses, or other staff to take on new responsibilities, the workload balance became more even and doctors were able to manage their time better.

You’ll notice each of the steps above involved working more closely with other team members and sharing responsibility for many clinical processes—all things a centralized practice management system can help you do more easily.

To learn more about how a unified practice management system can help treat physician burnout at your practice, check out our Practice Management Software Features Guide, explore our comprehensive list of practice management providers, or reach out to our team of medical software experts to discuss your specific needs.

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