Patients today expect their physicians to be available outside of standard office hours, creating higher demands on already busy schedules for doctors. Studies point to more than half of physicians reporting burnout, as defined as a loss of enthusiasm for work, feelings of cynicism, and a low sense of personal accomplishment. A solution for doctors and hospitals is to develop a team that can assist doctors while providing the continuity of care needed to maintain the high quality of care that doctors want for their patients. One solution is to establish a telephone nurse triage service for patients to call on behalf of their doctors. Triage Nurses use standardized protocols to ensure patients are sent to the most appropriate level of care and are able to follow each doctor’s specific custom orders to ensure that patients receive the same advice that their own doctors would give them. Doctors are also able to review every patient phone call and the advice given by nurses so that they can follow up on the patients that need to come to the office.
Effects of Physician Burnout
While job burnout may not seem like a serious issue, it can produce critical circumstances when it involves a physician. Reports claim doctors experiencing burnout have higher levels of divorce, depression, alcohol and drug addiction, and suicide. Additionally, they have lower levels of clinical care quality and patient satisfaction and higher levels of medical errors and malpractice risk. Medical errors are estimated to be the #3 cause of death in the United States and annual costs for medical mistakes are estimated to be between $17 billion and $30 billion. The U.S. healthcare system cannot afford the financial effects of physician burnout.
Better Life-Work Balance
When a physician is on call after office hours or during the weekend, they often receive patient calls interrupting personal time with family or getting their much-needed rest. It would be easier to manage if these calls were few and far between, but the reality is, with our litigious society they are becoming more frequent as the healthcare industry does everything possible to minimize culpability. Most patient calls result in advice that could’ve been given by a triage nurse. The figure “Outcomes from a Nurse-First Telehealth Model” shows the typical outcomes from patient phone calls using data from over 35,000 calls. For more information, download this ebook on Patient Symptoms and Outcomes.
Technology can help shoulder the burden. Utilizing telephone nurse triage, physicians can ensure that patients receive prompt, quality care based on standardized protocols combined with custom orders. As a result, many physicians who have incorporated telephone nurse triage find that their phone doesn’t ring at all hours of the night, they are able to spend more time focusing on their patients during office visits and can rest assured that everything is properly recorded in the computer for efficient billing.
There is no single solution that will eliminate physician burnout. Providing work-life balance education early in their careers and offering continuing education and assistance for stress management can help many doctors. Additionally, telephone nurse triage provides a flexibility that allows physicians to more easily adjust their schedule to help create a better life-work balance and avoid joining the ranks of the “burnt-out.” Contact us to learn more about our nurse triage on-call program and how it can assist your office and patients.