The Physician’s Dilemma 2021: 20 Years in The Making (Part 2)

The Physician’s Dilemma 2021: 20 Years in The Making (Part 2)

The physician’s world was changing prior to SARS-COVID-19 pandemic. We could argue it has been changing for 20 years however, the pandemic has both hyper accelerated the crisis and forced physicians to make very hard decisions.

As we noted in the previous blog, though we are “zealots” on the use of technology in healthcare, technology is only part of the solution. Though pure technologist would not like to hear it, we believe that we have way too much technology in healthcare today. Yes, we as a technology driven enterprise said that. The reality of it is, we have too many technology solutions all looking for easy problems to solve in healthcare. To date, the U.S. has invested around U.S. $200B in healthcare technology mostly consisting of Electronic Health Records (EHR), and the only thing we really know is that it has accelerated the burn-out of physicians, nurses, and has likely cost more lives than those they have saved.

After a lot of research and input, we helped design and build an EHR platform. Today, there are 1,000s of physicians that have disconnected their EHR and have returned back to paper records – even as government reimbursement has penalized them for that action. We do not think that is a real option for 95% of physicians however, it highlights the issue. As the U.S. government increases the mandates required, it has not only increased cost to providers, but has also added on an immense amount of stress. Physicians cannot raise prices; in fact, net prices adjusted for inflation have been going down for years. As we publish this blog, the U.S. government has noted that in May of 2021, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by 5% each year over yearly basis, and sometimes it has been even higher when Medicare’s gross physician rates were set to drop by 2% (delayed by legislation).

The problem is acute, and as we have noted, many support people have left healthcare as a result of changes in work conditions, families who have moved, or in many areas, where wages have gone up. The pandemic has left long term problems for providers.

From a recent study, we noted that, “nurses are 41% more likely to be burned out if they are using an electronic medical record system that operates poorly.” The study commissioned by the American Public Health Association surveyed 12,004 nurses, 1.3 million surgical patients and 343 hospitals.  The study also linked EHR’s to contributing to delayed decisions by nurses, and a “lapse in critical care” and medical errors. Nurses also expressed issues stating a major job dissatisfaction rate of 31% and noted that the issues made them “want to leave their jobs.”

Now, we are seeing the advancement of telemedicine, and the rapid explosion of remote care, as it has been a huge benefit of home connected wellness and care devices by using the internet to generate patient data. The Internet of Things, or IoT devices, can make a home an extension of a medical office or even an emergency room. They all show great promise – sadly, the choke point is not the technology, but the care givers that have to interact with it.

We are in fact living in the best of times and the worst of times, for the use of technology in healthcare, and this adds to the challenges and dilemmas physicians are now facing.

-Noel J. Guillama, President