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The dictionary definition of burnout is a reduction of a fuel or substance to nothing through use or combustion.  

More than a few care providers can relate to the feeling. We’ve learned that 63% of physicians have experienced at least one symptom of burnout, according to the American Medical Association and 51% of pharmacists are feeling burned out, too, according to a peer-reviewed journal 

Burnout is impacting healthcare in a big way. It’s one of the drivers of primary care provider shortages impacting nearly half of counties across the United States and remains among the top concerns for both physicians and pharmacists, according to our recent survey 

The result? Care is becoming less accessible for patients across the country. 

During a recent panel discussion, we asked industry experts and clinicians what actions can help eliminate burnout and help healthcare begin to heal itself.  

Perspectives on Burnout and Opportunity 

Our experts acknowledged how burnout impacts patient care. But they also see opportunity and practical changes that can help upend the burnout trend.  

“The more people are stressed and burned out, the less time they have to pay attention to their patients, the more they feel like they're being pulled to other tasks,” said Michael Blackman, M.D., MBA, Chief Medical Officer, Greenway Health. “And that's just not good for anyone, it leaves patients unhappy, and leaves clinicians unhappy and we don't get the outcomes that we all want and deserve.” 

“When I think about the one word about burnout, it is opportunity,” said Brian Salvas, Pharm.D., Executive Director, Retail Pharmacy Operations, CVS Health. “There's meat on the bone and there are practical things that we can solve together. And so, while I'll acknowledge reality, that we have a problem, I’m optimistic.” 

Similarly, Jason Elfers, Technology Implementation Lead, Humana, sees room for optimization within clinicians’ workflows and in existing technology. He said, “When I think about one word for burnout, I really think about easy. And what I mean by that is how can we make it easier to send prescriptions, to respond to prescriptions to make it easier for our physicians and for our pharmacists?” 

Elfers added, “what little things can we do that have a big impact and how do we simplify the processes that we do today to make it easier for everybody?” 

The Challenge Is the Solution 

Technology has helped make patient clinical records and medications much more accessible – and legible, according to Nele Jessel, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, athenahealth. 

She added, “while EHR technology has brought much good to the table, it remains a major contributor to provider burnout.”   

“As paradoxical as [it] may seem, technology will also be the solution to the technology problem,” Jessel said. 

While advancing technology and using it efficiently and effectively is part of the solution, the need to expand collaboration among all the stakeholders involved in patient care is also key.  

Salvas explained, “if we’re not leveraging these tools effectively on every side of the system, we’re still going to have to do the rework. Eventually a person's going to have to call somebody else and talk to staff and try to get it. And we don't get the benefit, the yield of these tools that could help us do even more.” 

A recent survey showed that access to technology and clinical information can help care teams work more effectively: 

  • Nearly three-quarters of prescribers and pharmacists agree electronic access to clinical information would be very useful  
  • More than two thirds of clinicians agree benefit eligibility information and electronic prior authorization would be very useful  
  • Half of prescribers and more than 80% of pharmacists would also find direct, secure messaging between pharmacists and prescribers to be very useful  
  • 64% of prescribers and 83% of pharmacists said the ability to process prescription changes and cancellations electronically would be very useful 

Leveraging Care Teams Effectively to Curb Burnout 

“Medicine is a team sport,” said Blackman. “We have to focus on how we support the team as a whole.”  

He added that a key component of alleviating burnout across clinical care providers points to leveraging the entire care team—physicians, nurses, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and other care providers—who all have specialized knowledge and training to support comprehensive patient care.  

There’s mounting evidence that clinicians, including 89% of prescribers and 97% of pharmacists, believe it’s important for the healthcare industry to move to a team-based care model.  

Jessel noted one example of how physicians and pharmacists can team up to better support their patients. She said, “oftentimes patients have an established relationship with the pharmacist and may be more likely to share side effects,” and the pharmacist can bring real value, identifying potential interactions between medications and alerting the provider. She added, “where that expertise is available, it should be leveraged.” 

Combining technology and empowering clinicians to do more in outpatient care is another way to cut down the amount of back and forth between the practice and within the pharmacy, according to Blackman.  

“The right data for the right people. The last thing you need is just more stuff without a way to get through it,” said Blackman. 

Call to Action: Visit our Care Team Evolution resource page to learn more about how Surescripts technology is informing the future of healthcare.  

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