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Hospitals struggle to address physician burnout

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Reuters has surveyed the costs to hospitals of the increasing problem of physician burnout. Among the observations in its article:

“Some leading healthcare executives now say the way medicine is practiced in the United States is to blame {for increased burnout}, fueled in part by growing clerical demands that have doctors spending two hours on the computer for every one hour they spend seeing patients.”

“Hospitals are just beginning to recognize the toll of burnout on their operations.

“Experts estimate, for example, that it can cost more than a $1 million to recruit and train a replacement for a doctor who leaves because of burnout.”

“In July, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) called on researchers to identify interventions that ease burnout. Meanwhile, some hospitals and health insurers are already trying to lighten the load.

“Cleveland Clinic last year increased the number of nurse practitioners and other highly trained providers by 25 percent to 1,600 to handle more routine tasks for its 3,600 physicians. It hired eight pharmacists to help with prescription refills.

“Atrius Health, Massachusetts’s largest independent physicians group, is diverting unnecessary email traffic away from doctors to other staffers and simplifying medical records, aiming to cut 1.5 million mouse ‘clicks’ per year.

“Insurer UnitedHealth Group, which operates physician practices for more than 20,000 doctors through its Optum subsidiary, launched a program to help doctors quickly determine whether drugs are covered by a patient’s insurance plan during the patient visit. It is also running a pilot program for Medicare plans in eight states to shrink the number of procedures that require prior authorization.”

“Pre-approval requirements from health insurers for many services and quality metrics built into Obamacare have added to doctors’ administrative duties.”

“’We’ve got this measurement mania. We’ve got to back off of that,’ said Dr. Paul Harkaway, chief accountable care officer for Michigan’s St. Joseph Mercy Health System.”

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