Solving physician burnout starts with investing in our people

June 07, 2024
Business Affairs
Dr. Raj Chopra
Dr. Raj Chopra

In early 2024, research found that 49% of physicians reported feeling burned out, and 20% self-reported as depressed—slight but notable declines from the previous year’s 53% and 23%, respectively. After years of raising the red flag of growing clinician burnout, are things finally improving? Are doctors level setting after the trauma of the pandemic?

Well, not exactly. It’s an encouraging finding, but that report still found physician burnout at historically high levels, and radiology ranked as the sixth-highest specialty for burnout. It’s also just one survey—at my practice, I can tell you that burnout is not improving; it has been trending the opposite way. Almost every discussion I have with the people I work with is about burnout. And I’m sure many of you have similar anecdotes of your own.

It’s a problem that has become self-reinforcing: physicians feel burned out, they choose to leave, which puts a more significant strain on the ones still at the practice and exponentially increases their risk of burning out. Meanwhile, actively recruiting new radiologists has become more complex and more challenging. Five years ago, there was no such thing as signing bonuses for new radiologists; today, I hear stories of practices offering recruits $75,000 signing bonuses simply because of how difficult it has gotten to attract new talent.

This is not a sustainable situation: we’re running out of doctors and trying, often failing, to keep the ones we have from burning out. But it’s not one without a solution, either.

Investing in cloud and workflow solutions
I know that “invest in technology” can often sound like a too-easy, pat answer to serious, complicated challenges like burnout. But hear me out because I genuinely believe that increasing our investments in cloud and workflow solutions is vital to not just addressing the current challenges radiologists face in their jobs; it is also essential to recruitment and retention strategies, keeping radiologists happy where they are and making it easier to recruit new people into the mix.

As a radiologist, I want anything to simplify my life. These options include a picture archiving communication system or PACS, vendor neutral archive or VNA, workflow orchestration, artificial intelligence, and cloud-native. I look for tools to reduce click fatigue, streamline sharing information across the organization, and simplify workflows to help reduce burnout and turnover. However, that requires buy-in from the clinicians, IT, and the organization’s leadership. In a 2022 survey on cloud adoption, 90% of survey respondents agreed or completely agreed that cloud combined with other technologies such as AI, Internet of Things or IoT, and analytics serve as ‘force multipliers’ for digital strategy. Another 88% of respondents considered the cloud the foundation of their digital strategy.”

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