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The Two Roles Technology Plays In Clinical Burnout


Career fatigue is more commonly experienced within the medical professional than in any other industry. Physicians, physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners and nurses, therapists, case managers and social workers are all at risk. In a study conducted by the Archives of Internal Medicine, 41 percent of participants reported experiencing at least one symptom of burnout.

Technology plays a unique role when it comes to clinical burnout. Its increased usage in the healthcare field has become a contributing factor to clinicians feeling overwhelmed and fatigued, two traits associated with burnout. At the same time, technology also has the means to make a medical professional’s job easier and more streamlined, helping to reduce the chance of burning out. This dual role may mean clinicians have to tread lightly when working with technology.

The basic traits of burnout

Burnout occurs from emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion brought on by excessive and prolonged stress. It happens in just about every industry, but is most often seen by professionals in medicine, nursing, social work, counseling, and teaching. The closer one is to the extreme areas within their profession, the more likely burnout can occur. Think of the difference in stress levels between an emergency room nurse or doctor and a dermatologist.

Burnout happens over time as physical, emotional, and behavioral signs begin to emerge. Because it happens slowly, these signs may not get linked together, and the warning of burnout may go unnoticed. Long hours, pressure to see more patients to help the practice succeed, and more non-patient duties can all contribute to the potential for burnout.

Some telltale traits include:

  • Physical and emotional exhaustion.
  • Decrease in physical health.
  • Changes in appetite and sleeping habits.
  • Loss of motivation and self-doubt.
  • Increased cynicism.
  • Withdrawal from general responsibilities and human interaction.
  • Reduced level of professionalism.

Experiencing just one of these symptoms at a heightened level can lead to professional complications.


Why burnout is dangerous

Whatever the causes of burnout, those suffering from it are more likely to make errors on the job. This can decrease the quality of care a patient receives in addition to deteriorating the mental health of the medical practitioner suffering from burnout. Because healthcare professionals suffering from burnout are less likely to listen closely to their patients, misdiagnoses can become more common. Reviewing medical files while suffering from extreme exhaustion can mean practitioners aren’t connecting the dots between symptoms and the right medical condition. This can prove dangerous for the patient, who then run the risk of not receiving necessary treatment.

The part technology plays in causing burnout

A central driver of burnout for doctors, nurses, and all those working in healthcare is technology. High level of frustration can occur when working with new technology for a number of reasons. The chosen system may prove ineffective for the existing workflow within a medical office. This then leads to an increased workload or work suddenly becoming burdensome when it was once easy. Improperly training staff to work with technology can also cause a variety of issues that can add stress to daily responsibilities, leading medical professionals toward burnout.

Poor integration and implementation of technology often stems from the fact that there isn’t an expert working on the process. Many medical offices don’t have a dedicated IT professional on staff to make the inclusion of technology a seamless and stress-free process. This means there’s not someone with the right experience to research options and make effective software selections for optimal integration. There’s also nobody on staff who can provide usage training and really work with the team to transfer existing processes and procedures into a more technological environment.

This lack of preparation and technology knowledge puts more stress into day-to-day operations, impacting all medical staff.


How technology can reduce the risk of burning out

Although technology in the medical field can contribute to burnout, it’s really there to help reduce it. While the electronic health record (EHR) system, at its core, is a burnout reducing concept, the system needs improvements for it to function at a more efficient level. When working just right, this system has the potential to greatly streamline access to patient information across multiple practitioners. Rather than add more work, it should improve workflow by making information faster and easier to obtain. The hiccup right now is that sometimes it requires more effort to locate the relevant information a specific doctor needs from within the mass of data in a single patient file.

Improvements in the future will prove most effective if clinicians are able to contribute to the development process. Working directly with the individuals who will use the technology enables developers to create applications that integrate with the least amount of disruption to existing systems. Paying closer attention to pain points in existing processes can help inform developers to build technology that makes a positive difference in the efficiency of health system technology. This in turn will make it easier for all individuals involved in a single patient’s care to communicate and share information. It will also minimize stress in this particular area and reduce burnout.

The search for balance

The medical profession isn’t the only industry struggling to find balance between using technology effectively and continuing to put a personal touch into their role. While systems continue to evolve, what begins as a stressful addition to a practice may eventually become an efficient workflow resource? This transition starts with the right technology systems implemented by the proper personnel. Ensuring the technology fits the business, and that those using it understand how it works, are two ways to prevent technology from contributing to burnout.


About Author: Sandeep is working as Content Marketing Executive at Aegis Health Tech, A Leading custom healthcare software development company India, Provides healthcare it services and healthcare application development Services.

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