By: Rebecca Kapphahn
For some physician leaders, the burden of administrative duties has compromised their ability to spend valuable time providing patient care, and recent research has suggested that industry changes in the last few years may have increased the burden. In fact, a recent report found 79% of physicians named paperwork and administrative burdens the top challenge they experience in practice, and more than half say they have less time with patients now than they had previously.
In addition, administrative duties are contributing to the pervasive issue of physician leader burnout and stress. According to a American Medical Association survey, administrative burden, lack of time and long hours are principal contributors to physician stress and exhaustion.
However, in my experience working with medical group practices across the nation, bringing in a physician leader or clinician to the administrative role brings valuable perspective to identifying and implementing best practices that diminish the administrative burden often experienced. Using practice-based expertise to influence the operations and strategy of the practice, accomplished physician leaders are successful in collaborating and gaining buy-in from front line providers and staff to address the administrative challenges many face today.
In many of the medical group practices I work with, physician and clinical leaders are considering or have implemented key strategies to improve the burden of administration. A few of these include:
Many medical groups will begin by conducting an audit of practice operations to identify and remove poorly designed, unnecessary or burdensome work. Leaders often leverage relevant platforms, such as an intranet page, internal newsletters or in department meetings, to socialize these initiatives and solicit feedback from clinicians and physicians on daily documentation and administrative tasks that may be candidates for revamping.2. Adding Shift Flexibility.
Often, better work/life balance can be achieved through more flexible scheduling, such as four-day work weeks or working slightly longer days and getting an extra day off every other week or setting one specific day of the week aside for administrative activity. Some group leaders are finding that taking fewer shifts while maintaining an equivalent clinical load on those days allows them to stay connected to patient care while diminishing shift responsibilities.3. Increasing Non-Physician Clinical Staff.
One of the most frustrating aspects of administration cited is maintaining compliance with electronic medical records. In fact, 39% of physicians revealed that electronic medical records are the most dissatisfying aspects of practicing medicine. Therefore, many groups are offering medical scribes or other staff to relieve physician leaders from some of these responsibilities and help support the practice. Medical practices are also engaging nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants in expanded roles of the care team. This team-based model frees the physician group leader to practice more efficiently, and therefore allotting more time on administrative and strategic responsibilities.4. Leveraging Technology.
Emerging technologies are helping to decrease paperwork and administrative burdens for many leaders, including telemedicine and home health devices that allow them to engage patients with mutual convenience such as, online patient scheduling and mobile electronic medical records. Other savvy physician leaders are also leveraging the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce inefficient and expensive administrative work. Operating on Amazon or Google cloud platforms allows AI to automate billing and claims processing, patient support functions, and eliminate redundant processes.
Other solutions many medical groups are turning to include hybrid medical scribes or virtual assistants, using voice recognition and AI systems. These automated virtual scribes harness technology to reduce or even eliminate documentation burdens. For example, AI can read the transcript of an entire visit and then move details around, edit paragraphs and delete what’s irrelevant to deliver a concise, accurate note.
Solving the Challenge.
The good news is several ongoing efforts by medical professional societies are helping to address the issue of administrative burden and raising awareness of the issue. And, we’re starting to see some progress in decreasing the volume and changing the nature of the administrative tasks required for patient care delivery. While there are varying tactics to optimize time without sacrificing quality of care and service, the continued evaluation, assessment, and discussion is critical to support clinical leaders. Their voice and unique perspective will continue to be invaluable with identifying opportunities to improve patient access and coordination of care while fostering a work-life balance and culture that supports the reason healthcare providers first entered the field – to care for others.
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