Physicians are naturally high achievers. They endure years of grueling education and post-graduate training, often at the expense of other areas of their life. This intrinsic will to help others and succeed extends throughout their practice, which, we are learning, can contribute to physician burnout.
It’s no surprise then that nearly 60 percent of physicians disclose they rarely or only sometimes have time for themselves. Generation X physicians and millennials report higher levels of personal-time deprivation compared to their baby boomer peers.
Hunting for work-life balance, regardless of your age or specialty, should not feel like hunting for a mythical creature. It’s out there. It does exist; however, it might not look the same for each individual or profession. Here are three ways physicians can begin to find work-life balance:
1. Focus on well-being.
Physicians and other clinicians take care of patients all day, occasionally while neglecting their own needs. Setting boundaries between your professional and personal life can contribute to a sense of control, which is crucial to prevent burnout and improve well-being, according to Dike Drummond, M.D., an author, speaker and consultant on the topic. Likewise, clinical teams need to honor an individual’s well-being and respect their boundaries, which, in turn, helps team members work more collaboratively. Organizations need to do their part by recognizing how greater well-being results in a lower risk of burnout, and design policies and work environments to support clinicians’ physical, mental and emotional health needs.
2. Recognize that work and life aren’t competing.
Although boundaries are important, clinicians should remember that the practice of medicine is not competing with their life. Instead, it should positively involve and influence the other spheres of their life: home, community and personal, according to Wharton School organizational psychologist Stewart D. Friedman. “Too many people believe that to achieve great things we must make brutal sacrifices, that to succeed in work we must focus single-mindedly, at the expense of everything else in life,” Friedman writes in Harvard Business Review.
Certainly, becoming a physician and succeeding in practice requires sacrifice. Burnout occurs when clinicians feel that these sacrifices, especially time spent on non-patient care-related activities, significantly detract from their well-being instead of contributing to personal fulfillment.
As Friedman explains, a more appropriate term might be work-life “integration” instead of “balance.” To achieve this integration, setting priorities and recognizing what is personally meaningful and important is crucial—but so is understanding how practicing medicine benefits, and even improves, those other spheres. Discovering this interplay requires self-exploration and consistent re-evaluation, but high-achieving professionals across many industries have learned not to isolate the different spheres in their life. At the same time, through trial and error, they have managed not to let any single sphere dominate at the expense of others.
3. Adopt technology that tilts the balance in the physician’s favor.
Clinicians waste an average of 45 minutes per day by utilizing outdated communication technologies. Likewise, a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association reported approximately 70 percent of respondents reported HIT-related stress, especially primary care physicians, while the chances for burnout were much more likely for those who spent more time in the electronic health record (EHR) and who reported having inadequate time for documentation.
Clearly, technology can detract from work-life balance and contribute to burnout, but eliminating these tools from the current practice of medicine is impossible. The answer is finding more comprehensive, efficient technology solutions to restore physicians’ time, decrease stress and increase meaningful productivity. The American Medical Association’s leaders on professional satisfaction found that doctors who were satisfied with different applications of information technology were four times more likely to be happy with their medical practice.
A fully integrated and interoperable, end-to-end healthcare access solution saves physicians’ time by encompassing the entire patient journey in a single platform. Every activity—from searching for a provider to scheduling, check-in, payment, intake, in-office or telehealth exam and follow-up—should be delivered and highly automated. All patient information should be captured and integrated within the EHR and other information systems for truly frictionless healthcare delivery and revenue cycle management. Taking it a step further and collecting patient-entered data in advance of appointments directly within the EHR, improves data accuracy and saves additional physician and staff time and energy.
Less time spent managing technology and more time for direct patient care enables physicians to tilt the work-life balance in their favor toward greater meaning and personal fulfillment. While technology is not the only contributor to burnout, adopting solutions that ease physicians’ burden, increase efficiency and return time to their day is a crucial first step toward burnout prevention and improved well-being.
To talk about how your technology solution should be reducing physician burnout, contact Epion Health.