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New Partnership Aims to Get Physicians Back to What Matters Most: Caring for Patients

By Peter Durlach

Recent research from the American Medical Association (AMA) reveals a continued, alarming trend: Physicians and health care providers are burned out, and the cost is tremendous.

Physician burnout—and its associated turnover and reduced clinical hours—costs the United States approximately $4.6 billion (or about $7,600 per physician) every year. Furthermore, primary care physicians spend more than one-half of their workday keeping up with data entry administrative tasks—work that prevents them from spending more time with patients.

Physician Burnout Considered a National Pandemic Before COVID-19
Physician burnout—indeed, burnout for any human being—is associated with a range of consequences, eg, stress, fatigue, insomnia, substance abuse/addiction, depression, heart disease, and vulnerability to illness. In fact, well before COVID-19, physician burnout had already been deemed its own pandemic among physicians, and experts have warned of negative impacts on patient outcomes as a result.

A study published in January 2020—prepandemic—revealed that more than 40% of physicians were burned out, with some specialties experiencing rates of burnout that are even higher, and with burnout affecting women more often than men. COVID-19 has since exacerbated the issue, adding tremendous volumes of very sick patients to already heavy workloads, leaving physicians and health care providers suffering from extreme exhaustion, depression, and even posttraumatic stress disorder. Investing in physician wellness has become an imperative, not just for coping with this pandemic, but for supporting the entire health care system going forward.

An energized, engaged, and resilient physician workforce is essential to achieving national health goals and there is a strong economic case for prioritizing physician well-being—not to mention the moral and ethical obligations we have to help those who help others. At the end of the day, physicians need support to manage the intense workloads they’re currently facing. They’re looking for technologies and resources that give them back the time, space, and energy they need to care for their own well-being and, above all, get back to focusing on their life’s mission: caring for patients.

Strategic Partnership Aims to Create New World of Documentation
Nuance recently announced a strategic collaboration with the AMA to help alleviate the clinical documentation burden that not only distracts and detracts from patient care but can also demoralize highly trained physicians. The goal is to determine how each organization’s solution works in tandem with the EHR to prioritize the physician’s time with patients rather than documentation and other administrative tasks. In short, the objective is to empower doctors to get back to doing what they chose to do: practice medicine and care for patients.

In this partnership, Nuance will be bringing its Ambient Clinical Intelligence (ACI) technology, which securely facilitates the transformation of clinical conversations between patients and physicians into reliable medical chart notes. ACI will handle the processing of the physician-patient encounter by applying advanced AI to help in the documentation phase of physician EHR workflow. At the same time, the AMA is providing vast medical expertise that ACI can harness to drive better outcomes for patients and providers alike.

Since launching this collaboration in early 2020, the pilot test teams have begun to explore opportunities to optimize Nuance’s Dragon Ambient eXperience (DAX) ACI solution with AMA’s expertise in physician burnout prevention and health care informatics.

To date, the Nuance team has shared data produced by its DAX solution, and the AMA team has worked with those data to leverage it toward IHMI’s Clinical Knowledge Graph, which aims to improve patient health outcomes by empowering physicians with the clinically valid health care data needed to make informed clinical decisions. The organizations are working on jointly defining the gold standard of documentation capture and the medical necessity of what should be captured to improve clinical and financial outcomes.

Looking to the future, Nuance will consider how the knowledge graph could help create a new world of documentation—one that favors evidence for thoughtful medical care and decision making over checking all the boxes. Ultimately, the partnership is becoming a shared exploration of innovations to empower clinical decisions, enhance the quality of care, and boost physician well-being.

Peter Durlach is senior vice president of health care strategy and new business for Nuance Communications.