As the U.S. recognizes the 58th American Heart Month, Nuance CMIO and practicing emergency department physician Reid Conant reflects on how healthcare workers are handling increased levels of stress and burnout—and hope for the future of healthcare.
The last year has given us no shortage of stressors. As a physician, I have seen firsthand the enormous toll that limited resources, high patient acuity, and uncertainty have taken on all of us. So much about life in healthcare has changed, from the ways in which we triage suspected COVID cases in the parking lot to our very real worries about getting sick and then sharing that with our families.
Stress can have a profound, physical effect on the body. Not only can it worsen certain conditions, but it can also negatively affect heart function. However, throughout this pandemic – and perhaps paradoxically – we’ve seen a decrease in patient volumes in our emergency department, which has been common across the country. Patients are reluctant to come to the ED out of concern for exposure; when they do come in, they’ve waited too long. For example, the patient who a year ago would have come in with a twinge of chest pain now waits until they’re very ill.
It’s something the American Heart Association just recently wrote about:
“…Heart disease has remained the leading health threat during the pandemic, and more people are reporting lower physical and emotional wellness. Many people have delayed or avoided seeking medical care…”
In other words, there are many ways to be negatively affected by this pandemic, even when you don’t catch the virus in question. And that remains true for patients and providers alike. Amid these challenges remain two pressures on clinicians: regulatory requirements and documentation burdens.
Mitigating the stressors that can contribute to burnout has long been a priority for us at Nuance. And while public health has, for the last year, been both top of mind and front and center, we as a healthcare community have sharpened our focus on optimizing and leveraging technologies that can help alleviate these burdens on providers. With the use of integrated, fully electronic documentation workflows, healthcare providers become more comfortable with documentation and more efficient—meaning they’re more likely to get these tasks done on time without having to stay late, come in early, or take work home. This combination not only decreases stressors and burnout while increasing providers’ satisfaction, but it also helps improve patient care.