Physician burnout has been a hot topic lately. You see it anywhere you find a physician. Doctors are tired, worn out, and feel like they’re overworked. Many feel like they’ve become data entry clerks and not doctors. Many doctors feel like all these regulation and reimbursement requirements have gotten between them and the patient. Many are pressured by their employer to hit numbers as opposed to caring for patients.
I could keep going, but you get the point. If you’re a doctor, then you’re living many of these challenges. If you’re not, I’d love to hear from you.
Lately when I’ve heard people talking about the damage the meaningful use, EHR, and now MACRA have caused, I hear those people proclaim that the medical profession has been damaged. Many go on to suggest that irreparable harm has been caused to the medical profession. Is that true?
When I ask these people what the solution is, they say that government should get out of the exam room. While that principle is interesting, it’s not very practical. Most of these doctors that want government out of the exam room still want Medicare to cut them a check for seeing Medicare patients. There’s a big disconnect there and it’s not likely to change.
All of this sidesteps the real issue we have in healthcare. Whenever we talk about lowering the cost of healthcare, that means someone is going to get paid less. Who should that be? Yes, there is the pretty rare scenario that you can lower costs while improving care. I’ve seen examples of this, but it’s an extremely challenging thing to make happen.
Going back to the main question. Is the medical profession irreparably harmed by the implementation of EHR software and other regulations? Certainly, it’s had a significant impact, but I don’t think the harm is impossible to repair. We do need to simplify the hoop jumping that we require from physicians. We do need to improve our EHR software so that it makes the physician workflow more efficient and not less. We do need to find better incentives that provide for health data sharing and deeper engagement with patients. All of these things will help repair the medical profession. Doing so will create a whole generation of doctors who can’t imagine what it was like to practice medicine without an EHR.