Posted January 20, 2017

Challenges and Opportunities for Physicians on the Front Lines of Technological Change & Disruption

In Part 4 of our 7-part series on What's Right in Health Care® 2016 we reported on change and disruption in healthcare - a topic addressed by several conference speakers. Dr. Gurpreet Dhaliwal, professor of medicine, University of California San Francisco and Studer Group speaker, discussed rapid technological change from a physician's perspective, noting that there have been breakthroughs, and the potential benefits are substantial, "but we aren't there yet". He urged physicians and healthcare leaders to overcome the barriers and work toward "man and machine" rather than "man vs. machine".

This Insight - Part 5 in our series - picks up on the theme of physicians' challenges and opportunities, covering several physicians' issues that were highlighted at the conference. Our next installment, Part 6, will focus on the "why" of healthcare .

Dr. Dhaliwal also addressed high-value healthcare in presentation at What's Right in Health Care. He defined high-value healthcare as improving health outcomes, patient safety and patient experience, while reducing costs and waste. He sees the consistent delivery of high-value healthcare as "a moral imperative for the 21st century". There are challenges, but technology can be harnessed to support high value, just like it can, and must, support high reliability.

Managing technology is just one of many factors - along with heavy patient loads, long hours, feelings of isolation and high expectations - that are contributing to physician burnout, the subject of a talk by Dr. Jeff Morris, Studer Group physician coach and speaker. Symptoms range from exhaustion and apathy, to depression and even suicide - roughly 400 physicians in the U.S. commit suicide each year. And burnout matters not just to individual doctors; it is associated with increased medical errors and malpractice suits, and decreased compliance and patient satisfaction.

Physician burnout remains a major issue, with serious implications for individual doctors and the health systems they serve. Again, many of the solutions lie in greater engagement.

Dr. Morris' prescription for healing physician burnout includes both individual responsibilities (centered around maintaining work/life balance and building collaborative support networks) and organizational responsibilities (focused on providing the resources and support that physicians need). This begins with engagement, using tactics like including physicians in goal setting and skill development, rounding, enhanced communications, "focus, fix and follow up" on physicians' concerns, and reward and recognition. Some leading organizations are already on this path:

  • Cooper University Health Care in Camden, New Jersey, has made physician engagement a high-priority goal. Dr. Adam Holsberg and Dr. Mark Angelo outlined a program that includes a physician engagement committee, physician champions, leader development, and careful listening and responding to physician needs. Results are being demonstrated across a range of CG CAHPS and HCAHPS engagement and patient experience indicators.

  • Dr. Arby Nahapetian, regional chief medical officer, Southern California Adventist Health, described the creation of a physicians' network that provides resources, training, feedback and supportive professional connections across an extremely large and diverse health system.

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