Digitizing Information Exchange to Reduce Physician Burnout

Improving health data exchange is crucial for independent practices to be stay in operation and be ready for what's ahead.

Documentation and reporting activities continue to be the main contributor to provider burnout despite the widespread adoption of EHR systems and promises that the technology would reduce rather than increase the burden on physicians.

The most recent survey on the subject showed a reduction in physicians reporting sensations of burnout, from 46 percent in 2015 to 42 percent in 2019. While a positive trend, the number of physicians suffering from long hours, overwhelming workloads, and a perceived lack of support remains a cause of concern. One can only imagine how the pandemic impacted a provider population already struggling to tread water.

How did the current situation come to be, and how can the industry address this critical component of the healthcare system, physician satisfaction? These are two important questions to answer, especially for independent practices struggling to keep their doors open and maintain their independence.

The current predicament owes much to federal regulation and a program intended to improve health outcomes and lower costs — Meaningful Use. However, when the EHR Incentive Programs were conceived, the industry was preoccupied with achieving the triple aim (improve patient experience, lower costs and increase quality outcomes and overlooked another aim essential to making healthcare a positive experience for physicians and patients alike.

"The goal of Meaningful Use was never intended to serve clinicians directly," says Bronwen Huron, RN, MS, PMP, Senior Healthcare Product Manager at J2 Global. "Rather, its purpose was to improve billing and care quality auditing. Because it was so focused on those two items, it created an incredible reporting burden for clinicians to report what they were doing."

While billions of dollars were made available to eligible physicians during the program's lifespan, the incentives put a spotlight squarely on providers who have increasingly felt like they are under a microscope. Jumping forward to the present, the Merit-based Incentive Payment Systems (MIPS) has replaced Meaningful Use, adding new reporting demands but no infusion of funds to implement technology that helps in the process.

"There are over 300 plus quality metrics and the physicians must report a core set of metrics as well as choose elective quality metrics," stresses Bevey Miner, Health IT Strategy/CMO of Consensus, a division of J2 Global. "Just trying to find those if you're an independent small practice and understanding what they mean is extremely challenging, let alone being able to track through your reimbursement year to determine how well you're doing with your patient population."

What's more, federal programs have long promised advancement in interoperability that has yet to come to fruition even though physicians are now tasked with demonstrating their ability to coordinate care on top of their responsibilities around day-to-day care delivery. With reimbursement shrinking and the cost of doing business increasing, independent physicians are caught between a rock and a hard place. But relief is possible in the form of technologies that streamline clinical workflows and enable more seamless data exchange between providers.

"The first thing we as an industry must realize is that we need to make these tools and solutions seamless and easy for physicians to use," Miner explains. "There's no reason why the technology has to be complicated and require small physician offices to have technology experts on hand. If we can provide solutions and tools that bolster the administrative staff's ability to be effective, that also leads to benefits in patient care."

With paper faxing playing a major role in health information exchange, improving that aspect of clinical workflows is a logical starting point to reducing physician burden.

"One of the first things that is burdensome in any physician office is the amount of paper faxing they receive via fax machine and data entry that has to happen to digitize that information," says Miner. "We look at trying to meet physicians where they are in their interoperability journey and if they are still seeing a lot of faxing, let's move those physicians over to a HIPAA secure digital faxing environment because at least there you can take a digital cloud fax and attach it to a patient record."

Cloud fax is an ideal solution for improving provider-to-provider communication without increasing expense or workloads.

In addition to cloud faxing as an easy move up in digital management of documents, direct secure messaging is a growing way for physicians to communicate. The looming ADT eNotification deadline on May 1st requires all hospitals to send electronic ADT notices to post-acute providers. Having the ability to accept direct messages will be critical for independent physicians to be alerted when one of their patients is admitted, discharged or transferred from an acute facility. Finding a technology partner that offers both is important to improve continuity of care.

For independent practices and physicians to take advantage of new, more robust technology tools that enhance care continuity capabilities, they must first recognize the connection between efficient workflows and timely reimbursement. By working with the right technology partner, these physicians are better able to satisfy regulatory demands, participate in current and emerging payment models and increase the quality of care without adding more responsibilities onto providers' shoulders.

With delayed care having become a staple of the new normal, a surge in care demand is on the horizon. Removing inefficiencies in health information exchange, especially paper-based workflows, is crucial for independent practices to be ready for what's ahead and, more importantly, to stay in operation.


About Consensus Signal

The real-time ADT notification solution used by these health systems is powered by Secure Exchange Solutions (SES), which provides secure, cloud-based clinical data exchange solutions that accelerate interoperability between healthcare communities. Consensus Signal has joined in partnership with SES to offer real-time ADT notifications to hospitals and health systems. To learn more, go to www.consensus.com/signal/

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