This just in: Doctors are miserable, and technology isn't helping

From the mHealthNews archive
By Eric Wicklund
10:29 am

A recent survey has found the physicians are more miserable than ever. Could mHealth tools help ease their burden?

Yes – eventually. But for now, it's adding to the problems.

"Physicians see mobile health as a long-term solution and a short-term nuisance," says Heather Lavoie, chief operating officer of Geneia, a Harrisburg, Pa.-based HIT company that conducted the survey. "It's actually adding to their problems right now."

"It's a little alarming and shocking at the extent to which physicians are dissatisfied," she says.

Geneia's Physician Misery Index, based on a survey of more than 400 physicians nationwide, places the misery scale at 3.7 out of 5 – which, company officials say, indicates the general mood is "tipping from satisfaction to misery." According to the survey:

  • 87 percent says the "business and regulation of healthcare" has changed the practice of medicine for the worse;
  • 78 percent say they frequently feel rushed when seeing patients;
  • 62 percent of physicians who have been practicing medicine for less than a decade – read: newer doctors – have considered other careers (overall, the percentage is 51 peecent); and
  • 67 percent say they know of a physician who is likely to stop practicing within five years due to burnout.

Lavoie says technology has proven both the cause of and a potential cure for their misery. Everyone, she says, is tired of data entry, and electronic medical records aren't making it any easier for them. Either the platforms aren't integrating with the physician's daily workflow, or it's taking too long to get acclimated.

"They see all this data coming at them and no good means of managing it," she says, adding that physicians are feeling "devalued" by a process that takes them away from actually sitting down and talking to their patients.

So, can mHealth help?

Quite definitely, Lavoie says, but we're not there yet. "If you've just come off a $300 million (EMR) implementation, you're exhausted," she says, "and you aren't ready to take on other projects. And the integration of mobile health tools is just something that's not realized at this point."

Healthcare providers "see mHealth and separate and compartmentalized and apart from the workflow," she adds. "They're not quite sure of the use cases, and there haven't been enough of them" to prove otherwise.

So while advocating for more mHealth projects – and information on projects that are, in essence, easing the physician's burden – Geneia is also launching an online competition to find ways to reduce the misery. The Geneia Joy of Medicine Challenge is soliciting ideas "on how to best restore the meaning behind the practice of medicine," and will offer $1,000 cash prizes and $5,000 worth of consulting services to the winners in three categories – the EHR of the future, population health, and the joy of medicine.

The online contest, open through April 29, will be judged by a panel of physicians as well as through online peer voting. Among the judges is Bryan Vartabedian, a pediatrician at Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children's Hospital.

“As one who been talking about the intersection of medicine and technology for nearly a decade, I believe wholeheartedly in the potential for technology to improve the practice of medicine and the professional lives of physicians. But we’re not there yet," he said in a recent press release announcing the challenge. "That’s why I’m eager to hear the ideas that physicians have for restoring the joy of medicine."

The contest is being coordinated by Geneia and Medstro, a physician-focused social professional networking and career development resource. Winners will be announced in May and invited to a live "pitch off" of their ideas later in the year.