Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, health systems and provider organizations were experiencing a growing problem of clinician burnout. According to a 2018 Medscape survey of more than 15,000 clinicians from 29 specialties, 42% reported being “burned out.” Of those, 15% said they were either severely depressed or had a general sense of “feeling down.” The specialties experiencing the most burnout were critical care clinicians and neurologists.
Now enter COVID-19 and the situation has become dire. Multiple surveys and studies have found that one of the biggest stressors for front-line workers is getting infected and then infecting loved ones at home. Other issues include: finding child-care; having access to transportation, lodging, and food; providing quality care after being transitioned to another area, and not having access to the latest information.
It is not an understatement to say that fallout from COVID-19 is likely to be significant for health systems and provider organizations, not just in terms of rebuilding financial solvency, but also in terms of rebuilding teams. Finding effective ways to improve clinician wellness, decrease stressors, and improve job satisfaction are essential to avoiding a critical disruption to healthcare delivery—especially in the ED where the pressure is especially high even outside of the ravages of a pandemic.
Numerous studies have found that much of the stress clinicians experience is driven by excessive administrative busywork, which often flows into evenings and weekends.
“Excessive workload, clerical burden and inefficiency in the practice environment, a loss of control over work, problems with work-life integration, and erosion of meaning in work.”
All play a role in provider burnout. Another study of how ED clinicians in a community hospital used their time found that 43% was spent on data entry and only 28% on direct patient care.
Since much of a clinician’s time is spent on data entry and administrative work, reducing that burden is a great place to start. Many health systems now use virtual scribes to do just that. Virtual scribes for the ED are specially trained to work within an urgent care environment so they understand the flow of the patient from presentation through admission or discharge. They can also handle administrative tasks like ordering tests, entering documentation and notes into the patient information system, and managing transitions of care.
Virtual scribes act as an always-present assistant, converting clinician-patient conversations into precise medical documentation. Clinicians use non-intrusive hands-free technology that allows them to give their full attention to the patient. This eliminates the need to toggle between the patient and the EMR, or having to go back into the patient’s record after hours and trying to remember details of the visit.
Virtual scribes in the ED help improve accuracy, increase documentation quality, and ensure timely charge capture for faster reimbursement.
Virtual scribes can help with admission criteria determinations and place orders for things like labs, medications, and testing. They can also provide patient education and handle referrals to post-discharge facilities.
Leveraging virtual scribes can save clinicians up to three hours a day, improve productivity by 20%, and increase work-life satisfaction by 40%. That means less turnover and reduced costs associated with recruiting.
The end of the pandemic is in sight and it’s time to address clinician burnout in the ED. Implementing virtual scribes now can help reduce post-pandemic churn so health systems can better position themselves for long-term financial viability.