The single biggest challenge facing Atrius Health, a large multi-specialty ambulatory group practice in the Boston area, is physician burnout. However, according to Chief Medical Officer Joe Kimura, MD, analytics could be the answer to the problem.

Physician burnout has been linked to decreased quality of care and medical errors, as well as an increase in the likelihood that doctors will cut back their work hours or leave the profession altogether.

“It is a workplace syndrome that is unbelievable,” said Kimura at HDM’s Healthcare Analytics Conference held this week in Chicago. “If you look at the literature on this right now, probably close to 60 percent to 70 percent of primary care physicians are expressing some form of burnout…In a market where there are not enough primary care doctors already, burnout is grinding everyone to a halt.”

A syndrome characterized by exhaustion, cynicism and feelings of ineffectiveness, physician burnout is a growing epidemic among provider organizations. In fact, a survey released last month by InCrowd revealed that 74 percent of primary care physicians (PCPs) and ER doctors do not feel their healthcare facility or practice is taking effective steps to address and prevent burnout.

“They cannot continue to operate the way that we’re expecting them to,” added Kimura. Yet, he argued that one of the most important areas of healthcare analytics in the future will be to help providers figure out how to simplify workflows in medicine, particularly primary care.

“Right now, in a couple of our practices, it’s cresting at about 4,000 patients per PCP,” Kimura lamented. “That’s crazy. We know it. We’re studying it. We know we have to do things to really make this a lot better. Analytics can help out with workflows, decision support and to synthesize data.”

The Mayo Clinic, in collaboration with the American Medical Association, recently released the results of a study of 6,500 physicians based on a national survey conducted between August and October 2014.

Findings included the fact that doctors say the use of electronic health records and computerized physician order entry resulted in lower satisfaction and higher rates of professional burnout. “Innovative approaches that incorporate these electronic tools into practice—without adversely affecting physician efficiency and professional satisfaction—are needed,” concluded the study.

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