Long before the COVID-19 outbreak, the global health system was burdened with an ongoing and worsening shortage of healthcare providers. With the beginning of the pandemic, the challenges facing an already over-taxed healthcare system only increased. Healthcare providers were tasked with the double burden of endeavoring to accommodate surging demand while contending with staffing shortages.
As a result, healthcare providers found themselves overworked, exhausted, and ill-equipped to provide the quality of care patients deserved. In such an environment, it is little wonder that physicians and nurses alike have in recent years experienced record levels of burnout, leading not only to early retirements and departures but also to surging rates of medical errors and patient mortality.
The good news, however, is that healthcare providers do not have to face these systemic challenges on their own. Rather, new technologies are proving to be instrumental in reducing the burdens placed on healthcare professionals and, consequently, in mitigating the risk of burnout.
Streamlining Diagnosis and Treatment Planning
One of the most important benefits of today’s health technologies lies in their capacity to streamline the diagnostic and treatment process. The value of this in an environment of skyrocketing patient populations cannot be overstated.
No longer do care providers have to comb through page upon page of medical records and diagnostic manuals. Instead, through the use of technologies such as electronic health records (EHR), clinicians can instantly access the patient’s full medical history, including viewing patient scans and lab results to make a more prompt and accurate diagnosis.
In addition, through the use of Big Data, care providers can both make more timely diagnoses and formulate evidence-based treatment protocols with minimal additional research required.
The digitization of patient data also helps to prevent care provider burnout by facilitating both the creation and sharing of medical records.
Clinicians can easily collect, transmit, archive, and curate digitized data and securely transmit that information to other healthcare providers for collaborative diagnosis and treatment planning and implementation. That means that not only is the caregiving process more streamlined but that it is also more effectively shared by other members of the patient’s healthcare team.
With such high-tech tools at their disposal, healthcare providers can provide high-level patient care while maximizing efficiency. And that means less of a burden on the caregiver’s time and energy.
The Importance of Telehealth
In addition to the role of technology in diagnosis and treatment planning, telehealth tools are also enabling healthcare teams to maintain nearly constant contact with their patients without taking up time, space, and resources in the hospital or clinic.
For example, remote patient monitoring devices can instantly alert nurses and physicians to important changes in the patient’s vital signs, regardless of whether the patient is in a healthcare facility or at home. This capacity to receive real-time notification in the event of an emergency can be a profound relief for healthcare teams because they no longer need to maintain a constant vigil at the patient’s bedside to ensure their safety.
In addition to the use of remote monitoring devices, telehealth technologies such as telemedicine are also being used to increase the patients’ access to their healthcare teams through telecommunications platforms. Video conferencing, for instance, enables healthcare providers to communicate and even visually assess their patients without calling the patient into the clinic.
Such accessibility means that clinicians are better able to detect incipient conditions before they can progress. And that, ultimately, means that less time and fewer resources will be required o care for the patient.
The accessibility and efficiency that telehealth technologies offer help to ease much of the burden of caregiving, which, in turn, makes for a more empathetic healthcare provider. An overburdened nurse or doctor, one who is suffering from burnout, simply will not have the mental or emotional reserves left to prioritize empathy in their relationships with their patients. And without empathy, not only will the patient’s experience be compromised but so, too, will their overall quality of care.
We ask a great deal from our healthcare providers. From the burdens of the labor shortage to the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic, it is perhaps not surprising that doctors and nurses worldwide are experiencing burnout. The good news, however, is that modern technologies are proving highly beneficial in easing the burdens healthcare providers face. The digitization of patient data, for instance, has made diagnosis and treatment planning far more efficient, effective, and collaborative. In addition, telehealth devices, including remote patient monitoring systems, are removing some of the burdens of watchful waiting while at the same time enhancing patient safety. Similarly, telemedicine enables healthcare providers to maintain close contact with patients, allowing them to respond to conditions in their earliest stages without expending unnecessary amounts of time or resources by calling patients into the clinic or hospital.