by Callie Patel, Healthbox
Healthcare industry experts have recently prophesied that “doctors will get less dissatisfied” and, as a response to the growing and well-documented issues of physician burnout and physician shortages, that health systems and other stakeholders will make additional investments to improve morale. Tackling these multifactorial crises will no doubt require structural and organizational changes across the industry, but there are opportunities for health systems to not only reduce dissatisfaction, but also create meaning for physicians and actively address the quadruple aim through physician-driven innovation.
The Impact of Digital Health on Physician Shortages
Tackling the obvious factors that contribute to dissatisfaction and burnout, such as dissatisfaction with the EHR and the cost of training, is necessary, but insufficient as the need for more physicians grow.
Another related but distinctly different factor impacting physician shortages, beyond incentive structure and administrative burden, is the rise of digital health. More and more medical students are choosing not to pursue clinical practice after training, sometimes not even pursuing residency. Sean Duffy, Co-Founder and CEO of Omada Health, Amanda Angelotti, of One Medical, and Rebecca Mitchell, now of Livongo, are high profile examples of this trend. Paul Rosen, MD, MPH, MMM shared that the options available twenty years ago were clinical care, research, or teaching and that “the idea didn’t exist” to not pursue residency. Now, would-be physicians see healthcare-focused innovation and entrepreneurship as a way to have a broader impact on the industry, solve problems, and ultimately help people — their reason for wanting to become doctors in the first place.
Ravi V. Atreya, MD/PhD Candidate at Vanderbilt and Co-Founder/CTO of Prediction Health is one of the many individuals not choosing the clinical care or research route. Through his dual program experience, Atreya felt that he would make a more significant impact pursuing entrepreneurial endeavors, addressing the documentation issues that permeate the industry in order to make doctors lives easier and ultimately improve care broadly. That’s why he took leave two years ago with two fellow classmates to start an AI-assisted scribe service.
How can stakeholders change the trajectory of this trend? Atreya thinks medical student programs should be providing more experiences in alternate potential paths (even for those who plan to go to residency). Vanderbilt Medical Innovators Development Program and the Medical Innovation and Leadership student organization, which serves as the central hub for Vanderbilt students to develop their ideas for solving healthcare problems with technology, or the University of Wisconsin Health Innovation Program and Technology Entrepreneurship Changing Healthcare, designed to give students real world industry experiences, highlight the growing trend of giving medical students the opportunity to learn about the complexities of healthcare innovation without forcing them to choose entrepreneurship or clinical practice.
The Opportunity Facing Health Systems
Health systems now not only have to compete with each other for top provider talent, but also with the seemingly lustrous path of entrepreneurship. They should not be passive parties in this industry shift; they should offer ways to put this passion and talent to use, inviting physicians and other clinicians to participate in the innovation necessary to achieve the quadruple aim.
Forward-thinking health systems like Orlando Health have recognized the upside to investing in physician-driven innovation initiatives. In 2017 Orlando Health launched The Foundry in partnership with Healthbox, a program that helps team members and physicians evaluate and scale their innovative ideas across the organization and beyond. Jamin Brahmbhatt, MD, Co-director of Personalized Urology & Robotics Clinic at South Lake Hospital Orlando Health said he is excited about the Foundry and other health system sponsored innovation programs because he views them as foundations for innovation and creative thinking for providers. While he never considered a path other than residency, he appreciates that Orlando Health is making it easier for physicians to practice medicine and innovate at the same time. Brahmbhatt finds joy in practice simply by knowing he is able to improve patients’ lives and thinking about how he can do that better. He shares “I’m constantly thinking of potential new inventions or technology that can help more patients” and he knows he is not alone in that. Investing in innovation programs can provide a centralized approach for this creativity to be fostered across all physicians and team members. Other tactics could be entrepreneur-in-residence programs within the health system, such as those at UTHealth or UNC Health Care, bridging the internal and external ecosystems of clinical care and digital health.
Over time, health systems engaging physicians in innovation will see a virtuous cycle develop. They will attract and retain top provider talent, creating a critical mass of forward-thinking people building a culture of innovation, which in turn can lead to transformational change for their patients.
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