Medical professionals are experiencing burnout on a large scale. Last year’s report of Medscape found that 47% of physicians felt burned out by the end of their shifts.

When we lose doctors to burnout, it means patients lose their advocates. Physicians are the driving force behind the medical industry and its constant innovation – but an industry that expects ever-increasing levels of productivity without offering physicians extra time isn’t healthy for doctors, or the patients they serve.

That will never change at the macro level, but there is one thing you can do today to relieve some pressure on your practice – adding help via a virtual staffing solution for doctor burnout prevention. In this article, we’ll look at the ways virtual staffing can tune down the stress levels of healthcare professionals on the front line of care.

What Is Burnout?

Burnout is a psychological syndrome that occurs when someone uses their mental and emotional resources for too long.

Symptoms include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Mental exhaustion
  • Hostility
  • Indifferent feelings toward patients
  • Feeling incompetent
  • Negating self-appraisal

What leads to physician burnout?

The pressure that doctors are under in the medical industry is often too much and can lead to burnout. The stress of increasing patient load, shortening appointment times, and paperwork can lead to them feeling frustrated and exhausted.

The most common causes of physician burnout include:

  • Worries about a potential malpractice lawsuit
  • With clinics being more profitable than ever, the pressure to increase earnings is greater than ever.
  • Heavy workload
  • High office hours
  • Low patient satisfaction scores
  • Reduced time utilization due to administrative constraints
  • Excessive hours and effort spent on tedious EMR updates
  • No work/life balance
  • Inadequate support from colleagues because 

Who is at higher risk of getting burnout?

Certain physicians are at a greater risk of experiencing burnout than others. In a study called Relationship Between Clerical Burden and Characteristics of the Electronic Environment With Physician Burnout and Professional Satisfaction, one of the conclusions is that physicians who use electronic health records and computerized physician order entry are at increased risk because they feel stressed about their time wasted on clerical work when they should be seeing patients.

This can lead to burnout for physicians who work in these specialties, such as those working in emergency medicine, general internal medicine, neurology, and family medicine.

Consequences of physician burnout

Doctors who feel burned out are likely to experience negative consequences that could have an impact on their careers and quality of life. These range from having a negative effect on the relationship with staff members to leaving the medical industry altogether with early retirement. In some cases, burnout can lead to decreased patient safety and quality of care as it often entails symptoms like impaired attention, cognition, memory, and decision-making skills.

3 ways virtual staffing can help with doctor burnout prevention:

1. Reducing workload

A medical assistant who specializes in telehealth can handle just about any task that a doctor would want to delegate. With the busy pace of work, doctors don’t always have the time or energy to do things like updating EMRs and documenting patient visits. But for many physicians, these tasks are critically important for running a medical practice.

Here are some examples of tasks that a virtual medical assistant can take over:

  • Taking notes during patient appointments 
  • Managing appointments
  • Updating medical records of patients
  • Responding to customer inquiries
  • Answering phone calls
  • Processing insurance claims

Doctors who work with a virtual assistant can save up to 4 hours a day simply by delegating their tedious admin tasks. That means more time, more patients, and less stress.

2. More Earnings

Operating a medical practice can be costly. One of the most expensive aspects is hiring and maintaining staff. To minimize costs and maximize profit, many doctors decide to run a lean staff and take control of administrative tasks that used to belong solely to them. This can lead them to experience some signs of burnout.

Virtual medical assistants can free up your time and help you avoid burnout, which can reduce the effects of physician burnout. With fewer administrative responsibilities, you’ll have more time to see patients and generate revenue from them.

Virtual assistants are paid less than in-house employees. An in-person receptionist, medical billing specialist, or medical assistant can cost $40/hour in some locations. Virtual staff members are generally paid around the minimum wage for your state.

3. Increased patient satisfaction

When doctors work hard to build their practice and reputation, negative patient comments can be tough to hear. Not only will they damage the physician’s ego, but they’ll also contribute to burnout and low self-esteem. But most patients want their doctor’s office employees to provide customer service that meets their needs.

The most common complaints by patients include:

  • Lack of communication with their provider
  • Insurance/billing issues
  • Unanswered calls
  • Inadequate time with the doctor
  • Constant delays in the office

Some of these complaints are from office staff and providers who feel the pressure to do their jobs effectively but don’t have the time. Hiring a virtual medical assistant can reduce the burden on the practice and create more time for doctors to spend with patients.

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