Eli Ben-Joseph | Cofounder & CEO | Regard | LinkedIn.
When I was younger, I always thought that I would grow up and be a doctor. My grandfather was a physician, and his love for the job had a strong influence on me. Prior to starting Regard, both of my co-founders and I were on track to go into medicine before we decided it wasn’t for us. Why? Our network and peers would tell us, “Are you sure? It isn’t worth it. It is not what it used to be.” We hear from clinicians all the time, “I told my niece not to go into medicine. I told my son not to go to med school.”
Talented, caring, hardworking people all over the U.S. are turning their backs on medicine. Existing doctors and nurses stay to take care of patients as a calling, and they’re knowingly shouldering a broken system to do it. If you spend any time in a hospital, you can see it firsthand—more requirements than ever outside of treating patients, new and difficult-to-navigate systems of compliance, and less autonomy. This broken system is chasing off new recruits and sending more healthcare workers to seek careers outside of medicine due to burnout.
Our healthcare system is approaching a critical condition. In a time when everyone is talking about the need for more doctors and nurses, it is alarming to see record levels of burnout and hear that many are considering quitting their jobs. As of late 2021, U.S. News & World Report found that 20% of healthcare workers had quit their jobs since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, and this trend is not slowing down. Perhaps more alarming is that we are on track to experience a shortage of doctors while our population continues to grow and age. Unless something changes, we are on course for a breaking point in healthcare. How did we get here?
When we started Regard, we spoke with hundreds of doctors and nurses to understand why they experience burnout, what is broken and what the major frustrations are. Months of research shed light on two key factors:
1. An increase in administrative tasks—including coding and billing, documentation integrity and legal requirements.
2. A lack of software built to serve providers in their practice (most health tech software is focused on coding and billing).
In many cases, the software in place actually made their work harder. This has resulted in the toil within healthcare reaching an all-time high. In fact, a 2016 Forbes article noted that for every hour a doctor spends with a patient, they need to spend two hours on their computer. Computers should be enabling doctors to spend more time with patients and be providing an increase in the quality of care.
One major reason toil has increased is due to a bloating of administration and bureaucracy. Since 1990, the healthcare workforce has grown by 75%, yet 95% of new hires are not doctors. For every doctor, there are 10 non-clinical workers. Administrators, however, are not to blame. This trend is driven by a spiraling increase in documentation and regulatory requirements.
How can we fix this? Hospitals need new strategies to ease the burden on doctors and nurses and address frustration and inefficiencies. One potential starting point is to engage with clinicians to understand their specific needs and pain points with current systems. This can be done through surveys, focus groups or one-on-one interviews.
Second, I believe hospitals should consider new technology strategies that are designed specifically for doctors and nurses and prioritize ease of use, standardization and integration with other systems in order to improve healthcare delivery for both patients and physicians. Most product offerings for healthcare today involve helping administrators with reporting, insurance companies with risk scoring or billing teams with increasing reimbursements. While all of these functions are necessary, the most important people—the doctors and nurses treating patients—have been left by the wayside.
Advances in health IT systems such as FHIR have opened the door to allow modern technology strategies into the hospital and allow for a potential reduction of administrative bloat. Empowering healthcare workers with new technology strategies that let them see more patients, have time to be more thoughtful and reduce their burnout should allow us to be well-positioned for our aging and expanding population.
Finally, hospitals will need to work to ensure that the implementation of these new technology strategies is done in a way that minimizes disruption to clinical workflow and maximizes adoption by clinicians. This can include providing training and support to ensure that clinicians are able to use the new systems effectively.
Doctors and nurses are the engine of our healthcare system. Nothing would run without them, yet they are getting the least support. The “check engine” light is on and hospitals have been taking the car to the car wash instead of the mechanic. It is time for healthcare administrators to rethink their strategies so health systems are best positioned for the future. The people treating patients need support to increase their productivity and reduce their burden before we hit a breaking point.