Orthopedic Surgeon Burnout - Can Scribes Help Restore Wellness?

virtual medical scribe cost

May 04, 2023

Orthopedic Surgeon Burnout - Can Scribes Help Restore Wellness?

Orthopedic surgery is a highly demanding specialty and burnout has been reported to occur at alarming rates. It has been observed that burnout rates among orthopedic surgeons are higher than several other medical specialties, so much so that the crisis has reached a tipping point. Did you know what tops the list of most frequently cited sources of stress? Bureaucratic tasks such as filling out exhaustive amounts of patient health records are the number one contributor to burnout. Today, for every hour a physician spends with a patient, they spend at least double that amount charting it, resulting in burnout and less than ideal patient-provider relationships. Hence, the simplest and most effective solution would be the use of medical scribes which would allow more patient interactions and less time entering information into the EHR or on loading screens.

Is EHR the major contributor?

Physician wellness and burnout has become an increasingly important topic of concern particularly in the orthopedic community. Orthopedic surgeons claim that administrative and regulatory burdens are the hardest to manage. As a result, they say that they feel at their best while performing surgeries. No wonder, orthopedic surgery has reported burnout rates of 40% to 60%. According to a 2017 survey of 15,000 physicians from 29 different specialties, 34% of the orthopedists reported having burnout symptoms with nearly 14% of them experiencing both burnout and depression symptoms. It is shocking to note that, the stress and pressure of heavy workload have pushed at least 34 orthopedic surgeons to commit suicide. Hence, a multifactorial approach is needed to prevent and treat burnout. The use of a medical scribe is one potential solution to the present stressors of being an orthopedic surgeon.

Typical day in the life of orthopedic surgeon

An orthopedic surgeon’s daily work is different from the so-called nine-to-five office work. In fact, there are never any daily routines. Generally they divide their time between outpatient clinic work and performing surgeries in the operating room. They see a mixture of new patients, follow-up patients, preoperative patients and post-op patients. In the midst of all this, there’s tons of paperwork to be done - completing patient notes and operating reports. Sometimes, they end up staying in the office late into the night with a stack of patient charts to complete. Time spent documenting care and after-hours charting has been of significant concern as a driver of burnout. What could be done to significantly reduce the burden and burnout in documenting patient care? Well, in search of a potential solution for managing patient records – one that would save time and lessen the workload came in the medical scribes.

Cost of burnout is high

The cost of physician burnout is exceptionally high. Did you know that it takes $500,000 to more than $1 million to replace a physician who leaves because of burnout? Addressing the burnout issue can eliminate the costs associated with it and generate new income. Let’s say for example an orthopedic surgeon is spending way too much time on EHR-related tasks and not enough time on providing patient care. With a medical scribe service in place, the orthopedic surgeon could spend an additional three hours each day on clinical work instead of administrative work. The orthopedic surgeon could complete three more joint replacement procedures in those saved three hours at an average margin of $17,500 per procedure. That $52,500 is the additional marginal revenue per day.

Can scribes improve orthopedists productivity and well-being?

The two most highly cited reasons for burnout in orthopedic surgeons are “too many bureaucratic tasks such as charting and paperwork and growing computerization of practice, i.e., the use of EHRs. These factors were cited by 65% and 44% of orthopedic surgeons, respectively. Several studies have analyzed the role of medical scribes and found that they improved physician quality of life, burnout, and patient satisfaction. Furthermore, scribes have been shown to significantly reduce the amount of time surgeons spent on charting. Use of scribes in an orthopedic sports medicine clinic has been shown to reduce the documentation time, improve productivity and positively impact physician well-being.

How orthopedic surgeons prevent and manage burnout

Philip Louie, MD. Virginia Mason Franciscan Health (Tacoma, Wash) said that he chose to spend time with his loved ones, took time to disconnect and relax and engaged in hobbies that brought him joy.

Mark Flanum, MD. Orthopedic Physician Anchorage (Alaska) said allowing time for family, doing exercise, or taking a vacation helps him recharge his batteries.

Jason Snibbe, MD. Snibbe Orthopedics (Los Angeles) said that exercising, spending time with friends and talking about his issues helps him to clear his mind off stress.

Anthony Melillo, MD. Bay Oaks Orthopedics & Sports Medicine (Houston) said working out, meditation, getting good sleep, going on a vacation, and not taking ER calls are some of the ways he chose to stay clear of stress.

Andrew Chung, DO. Banner Health (Phoenix) said that he left work at work, spent time with family, carved out time for things he enjoyed doing, learned a new skill and made friends outside of medicine to do away with stress.

Dr. Ryan Hess, an orthopedic surgeon, who has been using a medical scribe since 2016 said that efficiency and patients seen per hour increased with scribes, creating a jump in revenue. He further added that he was willing to pay them double for what they do. Using a scribe, in his opinion can reduce burnout, boost productivity, improve patient care, and optimize documentation.

Dr. Antonio Webb an orthopedic surgeon in San Antonio, Texas thinks that work-life balance is an important thing to manage workplace stress and avoid burnout. His advice is to find things outside of medicine, i.e., do things you are passionate about, be it sports or traveling.

If you are an orthopedic surgeon cutting through the COVID-19 surgical backlog and struggling to manage the voluminous paperwork it generates, take help from Scribe4Me’s medical scribes. We have an experienced team of certified orthopedic medical scribes who will follow you virtually and document patient data directly into your EHRs, in real time. To know about our services reach us at (908)736-4180.

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