Globally, the pandemic has imposed substantial hardships. As we are all aware, detrimental consequences of COVID-19 included high rates of infection and death, financial hardships faced by individuals, stress related to known and particularly unknown information, and fear of the unknown’s long-term impact.
Physicians and healthcare providers, who continue to be at the epicenter of the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, faced the most overwhelming of these challenges. Not only did they need to develop appropriate short-term strategies to triage heavy waves of sick patients, they also needed to develop long-term plans for more effective staff surge requirements. All of this had to be navigated while physicians and providers continued to effectively treat non-COVID patients and still also fulfilled personal responsibilities such as caring for their families and themselves.
These factors have placed healthcare providers under extreme mental, physical and emotional strain. The psychological burden has given rise to extreme burnout, psychological stress, and tragically even suicide. In a USA Today OpEd, David J. Skorton, MD, summed it up well: “Physicians and other health professionals dedicate their careers to keeping people healthy and caring for us when we are sick. …these individuals and their families have made enormous personal sacrifices as they responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and we owe them an immense amount of gratitude.”
Dr. Skorton also noted that the dramatically rising issue of clinician burnout may cause doctors and other health workers to cut back their hours and even accelerate retirement plans. In fact, the AAMC reports that as many as two in five physicians in the U.S. will be 65 or older in the next decade. This is a new challenge that is compounding these other lingering pandemic effects and is set to have serious consequences. A solution for the future is needed now.
The Complexity of Healthcare Stressors
The growing shortage of physicians is complicated by additional stressors in today’s healthcare industry. Beyond the emotional strain and additional hours placed on today’s clinicians, physicians also face an increasing number of bureaucratic responsibilities, electronic health record tasks, and mounting insurance and billing issues. These tactical requirements of the physician’s job take away from patient care and can negatively influence patient satisfaction, all while physicians are still trying to balance busy work-life schedules and a continuation of high patient volume.
These issues can be costly, impacting physician retention, health system profitability, and most importantly patient outcomes. Yet, the cure may be easier than we expect. Telemedicine, where dedicated hospitalists can be virtually and seamlessly added to the on-premises staff, can deliver the much-needed relief today’s hospitals require.
Why Telemedicine is a Must
When it comes to the great physician shortage, including what it means for patient care and how care is delivered, telemedicine is no longer an afterthought. It is now a must. Patients and providers sought safe ways to access and deliver healthcare early in the COVID-19 pandemic, and telemedicine utilization exploded. Patients and providers now have a new willingness to use technology and this is resulting in new models of virtual care. Along with legislative reforms that allow for better access and reimbursement, this is ultimately leading to significant change.
Specifically for inpatient hospital care, telemedicine provides a solution that relieves provider stress while maintaining the high-quality care hospitals require. Hospital staff can have direct access to physicians and specialists using video technology so that on-staff providers can get a needed break and hospitals can enhance services without adding the cost of full-time specialists. This ultimately increases work-life balance which will have a direct impact on reducing provider burnout and improving retention, patient satisfaction, and overall patient care.
Telemedicine also allows hospitals to better staff their facility during night and off-hours to reduce the number of patients transferred to other facilities. This benefits the communities hospitals serve because high-value specialty care, for even the most acute conditions, can often be performed closer to home.
The accelerated adoption of telemedicine is a much-needed jolt to a healthcare industry faced with significant staffing shortages. It is the key to overcoming the lingering effects of the pandemic on providers and hospitals – giving our valued physicians and clinical staff the resources they need to find a sustainable work-life balance.
Learn more about telemedicine from Eagle Telemedicine. Together, we’ll deliver relief to healthcare providers while improving patient outcomes and delivering the valued health services every community needs.