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January 20, 2021

Video can be effective follow-up tool for low-risk surgeries

video-tool Telehealth has been particularly popular in specialties like mental health, but new data show that it might be a growth area for surgeons. A study in JAMA Surgery found that surgeons had similar levels of success conducting follow-up for patients who have had low-risk surgeries via video as with traditional in-hospital visits. One encouraging sign was that while the video visits were shorter (20 minutes for video vs. almost 50 minutes for in-person), patients still got the same amount of time with their surgeons (about eight minutes.) A MedPage Today article says one barrier to the video calls was working with non-English speakers. Interpreters were available for the calls, but the video platform itself was still in English, which created some obstacles.

A colleague is being disruptive during a meeting. What do you do?

How can you handle a colleague who insists on being disruptive during committee meetings? It may be easier to try to acquiesce to the behavior to make it go away, but you risk encouraging the behavior by rewarding it. A HealthLeaders article offers strategies that physicians in a group can use to help the offending physician understand what’s wrong with the behavior. The article suggests one strategy is to ask the physician if she or he believes everyone on the committee should go along with his or her thoughts even if they disagree with them. If the answer is yes, they need to ask the physician if he or she would find that acceptable if the tables were turned. Other strategies focus on ways to find common ground or to show the disruptive physician how much other members of the group disagree with his or her position. Finally, the article states, if the physician’s behavior is really offensive, a last resort is filing a formal complaint.

January 14, 2021

Health care job market takes hit, but still popular

hospital-signWhile the job market in health care suffered a body blow in 2020, careers in health care are still considered desirable by the public. First, the bad news. Bureau of Labor statistics show as a whole health care shed just over a half a million jobs in 2020. Since February, hospitals lost 70,000 jobs, ambulatory services lost 173,000 jobs and residential care homes lost 264,000 jobs. Things may be turning around; in December, hospitals added back 32,000 jobs and ambulatory services brought back 21,000 jobs.

Despite that trend, health care jobs occupied 42 of the top 100 slots on the U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 “100 Best Jobs” list. The No. 1 job on the list was physician assistant. Nurse practitioner came in at No. 3 and physician came in at No. 5. It’s probably no coincidence that health care jobs were also well-represented on the publication’s list of the highest-paying jobs. The top job on that list was anesthesiologist, which reported a median salary of $208,000.

And rather than being deterred from a career in medicine by the pandemic, there are signs that more are interested in working as a physician. Data from 2020 found that applications for allopathic medical schools were up 14% and applications for osteopathic medical schools were up nearly 18%. A Medscape report quotes industry analysts as saying that the pandemic was likely causing an increase in interest in working as a physician from people who wanted to help. They may have been spurred to act by the recent attention given to physicians treating covid patients.

Programs try to help medical workers cope with covid stress

The stress on clinicians from caring for covid patients has led several health systems to create programs to try to help. Researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found that a mindfulness program helped reduce burnout by 27%. Participants in the eight-week program spend an hour a week doing reflective writing exercises, watching videos on interventions, talking about their responses, and meditating around a weekly theme. A HealthLeaders article says that staff might write about a moment they had experienced with a patient or co-worker where they felt “totally present.” Researchers also found a significant increase in clinicians’ resilience and in their work engagement.

At Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, the Center for Stress, Resilience and Personal Growth was launched in June to help staff members counter the stress of working during the pandemic. A Medscape report says that during the weekly workshops, staff have talked about their trouble being hailed as heroes during the early days of the pandemic because they felt like they weren’t effectively treating covid patients. The program screens participants to identify people who are at the highest risk of PTSD and has trained moderators give staff tools to build resilience and process their experiences. Mt. Sinai officials believe that up to 40% of health care workers will suffer from post-traumatic stress because of the pandemic.

Finally, a report from The Daily Beast details the pharmacologic lengths that some health care workers are taking to get a good night’s sleep to combat stress. There’s a story of one ED doc who at one point tried taking seven Benadryl tablets to get a good night’s sleep (it didn’t work) and tales of physicians trying drugs like trazodone, CBD, CBD with THC, antidepressants and “obsessive knitting while watching Star Wars.” The story details the stress that’s preventing these physicians from sleeping at night and how they’re coping with a chronic lack of sleep.

January 6, 2021

Job market: ED residents have trouble finding jobs

While there’s a shortage of physicians in the United States, many ED residents are facing an exceptionally tough job market. A Washington Post article describes one resident who can’t find a full-time job in his hometown of Houston and talks to experts about problems facing other young ED physicians. One of the problems is that staffing companies, which run about 60% of U.S. emergency rooms, are losing contracts with financially stressed health systems and therefore cutting back on hiring physicians. Experts quoted in the Post article estimate that at least one-quarter of third-year ED residents are having trouble finding work. Many have had their contracts changed or had job offers rescinded altogether.

Patients want to handle billing with text messaging

If you’re looking for new ways to make patients happy, you might consider looking into text messaging for billing. A new study says that skyrocketing numbers of patients are not only embracing text messaging for health care billing but are willing to leave physician practices that don’t allow them to handle billing via text messages. The use of billing-related text messaging has grown more than 200% in the last year, but nearly one-third of patients don’t think their current providers have done enough to improve billing and payment.

December 23, 2020

You spend a lot more time with your EHR than non-U.S. docs

Quality control EHRAccording to a new study in JAMA Internal Medicine, U.S. physicians spend an average of 90 minutes a day working with an EHR compared to 59 minutes for physicians in other parts of the world. The study also found that U.S. physicians spend significantly more time on four activities: notes, orders, messages, and clinical review. That probably explains why U.S. physicians composed more automated notes than their non-U.S. colleagues; 77.5% of text by U.S. physicians is automated, compared to 60.8% of text by non-U.S. physicians. U.S. physicians also received more messages per day than their non-U.S. counterparts (33.8 vs. 12.8).

One more thing to worry about when it comes to surgery

A new study gives some evidence that patients over 65 may want to avoid having surgery on their surgeon’s birthday. Research in the BMJ found that patients over 65 who underwent one of 17 emergency surgical procedures had a higher 30-day mortality rate when it was the surgeon’s birthday (6.9% vs. 5.6%). Researchers said the evidence behind the trend wasn’t clear but speculated that one explanation may be that the surgeons were distracted by their birthday. The researchers also said they were not recommending that patients avoid surgeries on the surgeon’s birthday, which would be difficult to do with emergency surgery. They said further research is needed to establish a meaningful relationship between surgeons’ birthdays and mortality rates.

December 16, 2020

Can hospitals require workers to take the covid vaccine?

covid vaccineHealth care workers are slated to be among the first Americans to receive the covid vaccine, but what happens for workers who don’t want the vaccine—and refuse? According to a health care attorney writing in MDedge, the closest analogy is the laws surrounding influenza vaccines. Based on that body of the law, hospitals likely have the right to force workers to get the covid vaccination. Short of exceptions based on religion or disabilities, the courts have been fairly consistent in allowing health care employers to require vaccinations. And people who receive an exemption are generally required to take other measures to protect patients. The author did say that workers who refuse the vaccine probably won’t be fired immediately, as long as they take other measures like masking to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Terrible patients: Can private practice physicians fire terrible patients?

Can private practice physicians fire an “extremely unpleasant” patient? A MedPage Today article by a physician/lawyer points out that while institutions like hospitals are required to care for all comers, no such law exists for physicians. The only catch, the author says, is that if physicians “fire” patients and those people have no other care options, the courts may rule against the physician. The article offers examples of physicians who fired difficult patients and had to face legal challenges.

December 9, 2020

Are women leaving medicine faster than men during the pandemic?

The stress of working as a physician during a pandemic especially hard for female physicians? A Medscape article points to evidence that the pandemic is causing women to leave medicine in disproportionately high numbers. Experts interviewed say that longstanding complaints like inequitable pay and a difficult path for promotions are insurmountable when combined with the challenges of working in a pandemic. A survey of physician mothers in April found that just under half of respondents scored above the threshold for moderate or severe anxiety. The article points out that caregiving duties during the pandemic are also putting significant stress on many female physicians.

How speaking out during the pandemic went wrong for two clinicians

Two stories from this week’s news illustrate the perils of speaking up during the pandemic. The first story involved an Oregon family physician who bragged during a Trump rally that he and the people who work in his office refuse to wear masks. The Web site of the state’s medical board says it issued an emergency suspension of the license of the physician due to “concern for the safety and welfare of current and future patients.” Oregon state law requires health care providers to wear face masks in health care settings. At the rally, the physician urged attendees to remove “the mask of shame,” adding that the purpose of masks is to “shut down the American people.”

At the other end of the political spectrum is a nurse who was fired after raising concerns about the safety of the scrubs that nurses wore at a hospital in St. Paul, Minn. When the hospital instructed nurses to wear and launder their own scrubs, the nurse, Cliff Willmeng, RN, instead wore hospital-issued (and laundered) scrubs and issued a complaint with OSHA, alleging that the policy was unsafe for providers and patients alike. A MedPage Today story says that when Mr. Willmeng was fired in the spring for violating the hospital’s dress code, he sued the hospital for whistleblower retaliation and wrongful termination. Now the state’s licensing board for nurses is investigating Mr. Willmeng’s conduct, putting his license at stake. According to the MedPage Today story, a union steward at the hospital says that nurses are still required to wear and clean their own scrubs.

December 2, 2020

Hospital nurses are part of “a national bidding war”

It’s a staffing problem that hospitals are struggling with: an exodus of nurses being lured away to other facilities or to traveling-nurse agencies by lucrative incentives. An article from Kaiser Health News describes what its authors call a national bidding war as nurses—especially those who feel they’re not adequately protected against covid in their hospitals—easily find higher-paying opportunities elsewhere. The article quotes one nurse who quit a full-time job in a suburban Denver hospital where PPE was reused until it fell apart; as a traveling nurse, she saw her salary jump from $800 a week to $5,200, with a contract that guaranteed adequate PPE. Job postings, particularly for slots in Plains and Rocky Mountain states looking for ICU nurses, are offering up to $10,000 a week. Rural and urban safety-net hospitals can’t begin to afford such salaries and have the most to lose.

How one medical group uses Uber Eats to combat burnout

Would restaurant deliveries to your house, along with laundry and dry-cleaning services, help alleviate some of the burnout you’re probably feeling during these dark days of the pandemic? A group with more than 2,000 clinicians outside of Boston found that offering those perks, along with other services like a personal concierge, help with childcare and free access to Peloton workouts, was able to reduce clinician burnout by 20%. A FierceHealthcare article says the physician group also made workplace-based changes, such as reducing the number of clicks needed to navigate EHR software. The effort to reduce burnout began before the pandemic, but the group quickly changed direction once the pandemic began affecting physicians and other clinicians.

November 25, 2020

Big changes are coming to CPT in 2021

Beautiful program code

Are you ready for changes to the physician fee schedule that take effect in just over a month? According to an article in HealthLeaders, major changes in 2021 include the elimination of CPT code 99201, and a system of choosing CPT codes based on either time or medical decision-making (instead of elements of the history and physical exam). The article also explains that the Medicare conversion factor, which plays a major role in physician reimbursement, is scheduled to drop by about 11%, which will hurt physician fees across the fee schedule.

Update: How are PCP offices faring during the pandemic?

As the country enters the latest surge of coronavirus, primary care physicians report that their situations have improved somewhat since the spring, but most say they are still struggling. A new survey found that only 33% of PCPs said they had enough cash to function for four weeks, and 60% said they were seeing a rise in covid in their communities. The good news is that the financial troubles faced by PCPs have eased, with only 6% of practices saying that they are unable to pay some bills. But 35% of practices reported trouble hiring staff, 27% said they had permanently lost members of their practices (in part because of illness and early retirement), and 23% said that they feel unsafe because they are being forced to reuse PPE.

November 18, 2020

How is your mental health during the pandemic?

terrible migrain

 

Several articles in this week’s press paint a dismal picture of not only the country’s surging number of coronavirus cases, but the mental health state of physicians and clinicians caring for patients.

Closing practices and retiring physicians

An article in the New York Times looks at outpatient physicians who are being forced to close or sell their practices because of financial pressure generated by the pandemic. Plummeting patient revenue and difficulties finding protective gear are making it impossible for some smaller practices to survive. The article quotes one study that found about 8% of physicians had closed their offices earlier this year and another 4% planned to close in the next year. Another study found that 20% of PCPs said someone in their practice had already retired early or was planning to retire early because of covid.

Staff shortages and stress

An article in The Atlantic, “No one is listening to us,” paints a grim picture of hospital staff trying to care for patients as the pandemic rages out of control. Hospitals are trying to keep up by adding beds and covid units, but staff shortages are pushing physicians and nurses to the breaking point. One Iowa nurse facing an ED with 25 covid patients—but not enough nursing staff to care for them—said that while managing the pandemic was “doable” in the summer, the recent surge in coronavirus patients is leaving clinicians feeling overwhelmed and burned out.

Nurses and PPE shortages

Finally, a Medscape article says that 11 months into the pandemic, many U.S. hospitals are still struggling to get their hands on adequate supplies of PPE. In a survey of nurses around the country, more than 80% say they are still re-using single-use PPE; 20% report that their employers have recently limited the use of N95 masks because of shortages. Just under half of the nurses (42%) said that staffing shortages have gotten worse, leading to feelings of stress among 80% of nurses, anxiety among 75% and feelings of sadness and depression among 62%. Registration is required to read the full article on Medscape.

November 11, 2020

What kind of lawsuits should you worry about?

questions

When it comes to malpractice lawsuits, do you know the types of claims that are commonly filed? An article from MD Edge says that in frivolous claims, patients lack any evidence of injury or damage. In nonmeritorious lawsuits, injury or damages are suffered, but not because of negligence. And in fake claims, patients are making things up to shake you down for a few dollars. The good news is that of about 18,000 liability claims filed between 2016 and 2018, 65% were dropped. The MD Edge article looks at the difference between different types of liability lawsuits and offers a quick primer on malpractice law for physicians.

Fewer docs receive industry payments, but dollar amount remains the same

While a system that reports on industry payments to physicians seems to have slowed the number of physicians taking those payments, the total value of those payments has stayed relatively the same. Researchers found that in 2018, 45% of physicians received at least one payment from industry. In 2014, by contrast, that number was 52%. A HealthLeaders article says that from 2014 to 2018, physicians received nearly 50 million payments from industry totaling $9.3 billion. Most physicians–90%–received less than $10,000. Between 2014 and 2018, the total value of industry payments remained the same in all specialties except for primary care, which saw a dip in total payments.

November 4, 2020

More clues about the wage gap between male and female doctors

gender pay gap

It’s been a busy week or so when it comes to data on the gender gap in wages for male and female physicians. Three reports offer more data on the wage gap—and an interesting explanation about its origins.

  • A new survey from Doximity found that the wage gap between male and female physicians grew to 28% in 2020. The report found that female physicians make $115,000 less than male physicians.
  • Last week, another report found a slightly smaller, but still significant, gender gap in physician wages. The drug discount company SingleCare found that female specialists earn $89,000 less than their male colleagues ($375,000 for men vs. $212,000 for women). Among primary care physicians, the gap was $52,000 ($264,000 for men vs. $212,000).
  • Finally, a study says that female physicians may be paid less because they spend more time with patients during visits. The research article in the New England Journal of Medicine, which looked at nearly 25 million primary care office visits, found that female physicians spent 16% more time with patients than their male colleagues and that they generated 11% less revenue per year. HealthLeaders reports that researchers concluded that female physicians’ lower wages were driven “entirely” by differences in volume, and that the lower volume was not explained by female physicians working fewer days.

Are your patients too distracted—or drunk—to do telehealth right?

While upwards of 50% of Americans have used telehealth this year, not all of them are paying close attention to what you discuss. A survey from the health care tech company Dr. First found that patients are routinely distracted during telehealth visits by Web surfing, checking e-mail and texting (24.5%), watching TV or movies (24%), checking on social media (21%) and eating (21%). If that’s not bad enough, consider that just under 10% of patients admitted to having a cocktail (a “quarantine”) or some other type of alcoholic drink during televisits. The survey found that telehealth was most widely used for annual checkups (38% of respondents said they had used a televisit for this purpose), mental health therapy (25%) and specialist visits (21%).

October 30, 2020

Are you voting?

Vector illustration of a red and blue ballot box with a white stethoscope on it.

 

Given this year’s record turnout in early voting, a new research letter delivers this surprising news: Physicians are less likely to vote than the general population. The authors looked at voter registration and turnout among physicians in California, New York and Texas, the three states with the highest number of doctors. They found that only 37% of eligible physicians between 2006-18 voted vs. 51% of the general public. Further, half of all physicians aren’t even registered to vote. Why? “(L) ow participation,” the authors write, “may be because of the fear of seeming political while practicing medicine, in addition to other administrative and psychological barriers.” The same authors also published results of a single-site survey they did of close to 200 residents. The majority of residents cited their long work hours as a barrier to voting, while close to one in four believed their individual vote didn’t have much impact.

October 28, 2020

Physicians fight claims that they’re overcounting covid cases for money

covid-19-insurance-claims

Medical groups this week struck back against President Trump’s claims that physicians are overreporting fatalities from covid to increase their reimbursement. According to a Medscape article, groups like the AMA and ACP lashed out against those claims. In a statement, ACP said the president’s comments are “a reprehensible attack on physicians’ ethics and professionalism.” The Society of Hospital Medicine said that hospitalists are “selflessly placing their lives at risk” during the pandemic. The Medscape article notes that a growing body of research shows that fatalities from covid are likely being undercounted, not overcounted.

Covid has physicians working more for less money

A new survey shows that a variety of specialties are working harder and longer during the covid pandemic, with 31% of specialists saying they’re working more hours for little to no extra compensation. Seventy percent of ED physicians reported that they have suffered a “negative economic impact” from covid, and 63% of anesthesiologists say they’re suffering because covid patients have squeezed out elective surgery patients. About 36% of respondents said they’ve taken on new tasks during the pandemic; 49% have taken on an advisory role, and 29% have worked as an investigator in covid studies.

October 21, 2020

Telehealth services: CMS expands what it will pay for

telehealth

The CMS this month announced that it is adding close to a dozen telehealth service lines that it will pay for during the pandemic. On that list of 11 new services: cardiac rehab and intensive cardiac rehab, with and without exercise, and pulmonary rehab with exercise. Other services that will now be covered include in-person ventricular assist device interrogation and several types of electronic analysis of implanted neurostimulator pulse. With the new additions, the CMS has since March OKed payment for more than 130 telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries, including initial inpatient visits and ED visits. The CMS also announced that it plans to boost support to state Medicaid and CHIP programs to expand access to telehealth. In other virtual care news, a Seattle-based start-up that relies on a text-based primary care platform is attracting big investors. The on-demand service, called 98point6, just received $118 million in funding for a total of $247 million. Boeing and Sam’s Club are among the startup’s partners.

Why the hate for DOs?

The high profile given Sean Conley, DO, the president’s physician, had this unintended and ill-informed consequence: It produced a lot of disparaging remarks about doctors who train in osteopathic medicine. Apparently, many members of the media and the public mistakenly assume that DOs aren’t fully qualified, licensed physicians. In response, the American Osteopathic Association pushed back, targeting media figures and social media as well as connecting reporters to prominent DOs. And in a commentary published on KevinMD, two prominent hospitalists—both of whom are DOs—likewise rallied support for their colleagues. “(W)hen someone challenges the validity of a legitimate medical degree,” they write, “the entire house of medicine is under attack.”

October 7, 2020

Women increase their numbers in specialties, but pay gap persists

gender pay gap

While more women are practicing medicine in specialties like rheumatology and dermatology, they are earning less than their male colleagues. A compensation report from Medscape focusing on female physicians found that since 2015, three specialties have seen dramatic increases in the number of women in their ranks. Rheumatology saw its number of female physicians skyrocket from 29% to 54%. Dermatology saw its number of women physicians increase from 32% to 49%, and family medicine saw a jump from 35% to 43%. That report noted that those gains, however, have not leveled the playing field when it comes to compensation. In primary care, men still make 25% more than women ($264,000 vs. $212,000). And in specialties, men make 31% more than women ($375,000 vs. $286,000). The report offers a detailed look at how much women earn compared to men by specialty, practice setting, percent of income from incentive bonus, number of work hours, and more.

These payers are changing telehealth reimbursement

Oct. 1 marked a significant change in coverage for telehealth—which became ultra-popular during the pandemic—when several private insurers began to no longer fully pay for virtual visits under certain circumstances. UnitedHealthcare terminated a benefit that fully covered patients’ virtual visits with their in-network clinician for any non-Covid-19 issue. Anthem stopped waiving the cost of copays, coinsurance, and deductibles for virtual visits not related to Covid-19. Many patients have become reliant on virtual visits during the pandemic, especially older individuals and those with disabilities that made traveling to and from appointments difficult. “For many patients, it’s their lifeline right now — it’s the only way that they’re feeling comfortable or safe receiving care,” one expert tells STAT’s Rebecca Robbins and Erin Brodwin. One recent report estimates that during the pandemic, the number of people who had at least a single telehealth visit grew by 57%. That report, from Doximity, also predicted that 20% of all medical visits in 2020 will be conducted via telehealth.

September 23, 2020

One-quarter of physicians know a doc who has committed suicide

worried physician

A new report says that 22% physicians know another physician who has committed suicide and that 26% know a colleague who has considered suicide. The report, which was released by The Physicians Foundation, says that 8% of physicians have had thoughts of self-harm as they cope with the effects of covid on their practices and that a stunning 58% of physicians say they’ve shown signs of burnout. Half of physicians say they’ve been angry, cried or been anxious because of the pandemic’s effects on their practices. To cope, 18% of physicians said they have increased their use of medications, alcohol or illegal drugs. The report was released last Thursday to coincide with National Physician Suicide Awareness Day.

Avoid these malpractice risks when seeing patients via video

While the increased use of telehealth is often viewed as one of the positive changes made to medicine as a result of the covid pandemic, telemedicine visits can pose risks to physicians. A Medscape article looking at the risks of video visits points out that physicians’ inability to actually see or touch patients can put them at a disadvantage that can lead to legal problems. The article describes the case of a man with swelling of the leg that turned out to be a fatal DVT. His family sued the ED physician who saw the man via video, claiming that the DVT could have been detected and treated if the physician had seen the patient in person. One insurer found that 66% of malpractice claims involving telemedicine were related to diagnoses. The article also looks at issues with documentation and consent when it comes to video visits.

September 16, 2020

What’s the future of medical meetings?

Are you looking forward to the day when meetings for physicians are once again in-person, and not virtual? In a Medscape article, one physician looks at the upsides and downsides of virtual meetings—and concludes that he, for five distinct reasons, prefers virtual meetings. The physician argues that because virtual meetings provide greater access to physicians and let them digest content more efficiently, the medical profession shouldn’t necessarily rush back to in-person meetings once the covid pandemic subsides. Comments on the article offer their own perspectives on the merits of virtual vs. in-person meetings.

September 11, 2020

Will primary care survive the financial impact of covid?

A new survey found that 20% of primary care physicians were considering leaving primary care because of the financial fallout of covid, and 13% were unsure of their futures in medicine. The survey, which was conducted by the Larry A. Green Center and Primary Care Collaborative, also found that in August, 2% of primary care practices have closed and another 2% were considering bankruptcy. According to coverage from FierceHealthcare, 21% of the physicians surveyed have had layoffs of furloughs, 28% have seen a revenue drop of 30%-50%, and 24% have shut down quality initiatives that started before the pandemic.

Survey data finds physician pay rose 4% in 2019

New survey data found that physician pay grew by just under 4% in 2019, up from the 2.92% increase in pay recorded the year before. According to HealthLeaders coverage, survey data from the American Medical Group Association found that primary care specialties saw an increase of 4.46% and medical specialties saw an increase of 3.52%. Coverage in Becker’s Healthcare reports that internal medicine saw a 5.65% increase, family medicine saw a 3.75% increase, and pediatrics saw a 5.06% increase. The data also show that despite a rise in compensation, physician productivity remained relatively flat, rising just 0.56% over the previous year. Analysts worry that raises in compensation without similar gains in productivity may point to an unsustainable trend in physician pay. Data are not available for pay trends since the beginning of the covid pandemic.

AMA proposes changes to simplify outpatient E/M codes

Changes to outpatient evaluation and management (E/M) codes announced last week by the AMA are being lauded by primary care groups as a step in reversing what they see as the undervaluation of E/M services and in streamlining documentation requirements. The revisions eliminate the history and physical exam as the basis for selecting codes. The changes also permit code levels to be based on either medical decision-making or total time. The AMA said that the changes, which represent the first time E/M codes have been changed in 25 years, were designed to make coding for office visits more flexible. The AMA is proposing that Medicare implement the changes, which include 206 new codes, 54 deletions and 69 revisions, on Jan. 1, 2021.

Physicians experience EHR-induced fatigue in as little as one minute

In a finding that will shock few physicians, research released this spring found that 80% of physicians experienced fatigue after working with EHR systems for as little as 22 minutes.

study in JAMA Network Open looked at data from a study of 25 physicians who reviewed simulated cases of four ICU patients using EHR software. All physicians in the study were fatigued at some point during the simulation, with 36% experiencing fatigue in the first minute and 64% experiencing fatigue at least in the first 20 minutes. By 22 minutes, 80% of the subjects had experienced some fatigue. Researchers also found that once physicians had experienced fatigue, the next case they reviewed took more time, more clicks of the mouse and more screen visits.

Physicians struggle to adapt to less telehealth

With physician offices around the country opening up, telehealth has lost some of its popularity with patients and physicians alike. That’s leaving many medical offices struggling to adjust to a new normal where patients are being seen by a combination of virtual and in-person visits.

According to an article from STAT, telemedicine visits shrank from 69% of all patient encounters in April to 21% by the middle of July. Practices that switched all visits to virtual back in the spring are now struggling to move some—or most—of their visits back to in-person encounters, but it has not always been an easy switch. Administrators have to determine in advance which patients should be in-person vs. via teleconferencing, for example, and they need to decide how to most efficiently split the time of physicians between the two visits. The STAT article notes that telehealth visits for mental health services is still growing, and that while the number of telemedicine visits has shrunk since the spring, there has still been a drastic increase in the number of patients receiving care via telehealth.

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