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Why Healthcare Collaboration Matters More to the Burnout Crisis than Work Hours

Posted by Lawrence Kerr on Thu, Feb 01, 2018 @ 06:00 AM

remi-walle-86579.jpgA common critique of healthcare collaboration in general — and iClickCare in particular — is that it will never become widespread because doctors are too rational and self-centered to do something “altruistic.”

We’ve even seen hospital administrators make widespread strategy decisions with the assumption that doctors care most about money and status and “what’s in it for me.”

That perspective never resonated with us. And we’ve seen hundreds of people thrive with iClickCare, both because it saves them time, has a great ROI, and for the “altruistic” reason that it is better for their patients. But it wasn’t until today that our hunch was truly confirmed by a medical journal.

The New England Journal of Medicine published two articles recently that dig into the phenomenon of burnout and debunk a lot of myths we have about it  ultimately getting at what motivates doctors.

In “To Care Is Human — Collectively Confronting the Clinician-Burnout Crisis,”  Dzau et al. look at the causes and manifestations of burnout.

Of course, the consequences of allowing burnout to persist are serious:

  • Physician suicide.
  • Patient safety. “Some studies have revealed links between clinician burnout and increased rates of medical errors, malpractice suits, and health care–associated infections.”
  • Costs to productivity. “In one longitudinal study, the investigators calculated that annual productivity loss in the United States that is attributable to burnout may be equivalent to eliminating the graduating classes of seven medical schools.”

It's a critical problem that demands real solutions. As for what those solutions should be, common wisdom is that doctors need more time, money, or efficiency.

But as Dzau et al. share, in many cases, what doctors really need more of is connection to the meaning and fulfillment in their work. “The ethical principles that guide clinical care — a commitment to benefiting the patient, avoiding harm, respecting patient autonomy, and striving for justice in health care — affirm the moral foundation and deep meaning underlying many clinicians’ views of their profession as a worthy and gratifying calling… Clinicians are human, and it takes a personal toll on them when circumstances make it difficult to fulfill their ethical commitments and deliver the best possible care.”

So although people sometimes challenge iClickCare on the grounds that doctors are too rational or self-centered to use it, iClickCare allows doctors to connect with colleagues, do healthcare collaboration and care coordination, and make better diagnoses and fewer mistakes. In other words, iClickCare connects directly to doctors' sense of fulfilling their ethical commitments and delivering the best possible care. And in doing so, iClickCare relates directly to easing burnout.

In “Beyond Burnout — Redesigning Care to Restore Meaning and Sanity for Physicians,” Wright and Katz quote Dr. Christine Sinsky as saying, “We’re spending our days doing the wrong work. At the highest level, we are disconnected from our purpose and have lost touch with the things that give joy and meaning to our work.” Doctors spend 1-2 hours doing the clerical or administrative work for every hour they see patients. (Patients who are often double-booked, back to back.) As high achievers, they fit this work into spaces in their day that don’t exist. Administrators, facing their own severe pressures, aren’t compensating doctors for this "around the edges" time and they are not giving them the tools they need to feel, and be, supported in the work.

The demands on doctors increase, but with decreasing access to the parts of the job that fulfill them  decreasing access to the parts of the job that keep a doctor from burning out. 

David Whyte, the poet, says: "The antidote to exhaustion may not be rest. It may be wholeheartedness." And ultimately, when we think about iClickCare, we're motivated to help doctors find that wholeheartedness in their work. You don't need your hospital's support and you don't need all of your colleagues to take it on. All you need to do is to make the tiny choice to act on your own behalf. 

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Tags: healthcare provider burnout, provider burnout, healthcare collaboration

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