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Podcast: Nuance, Tech & Fighting Physician Burnout


Data Book examines the work of William Osler & its parallels to the burnout problem. Then our expert panel discusses solutions.

Photo has been altered. Courtesy of Wellcome Images.

By now, healthcare leaders understand that physician burnout is a serious problem that afflicts our doctors, patients and health systems. And, of course, the electronic health record (EHR) is linked to burnout, worsening doctors’ workflow and documentation demands. But, nuanced as it may be, technology, data and analytics can also play a role in fighting physician burnout.

This week on Data Book, we host a physician burnout discussion among some of the leading voices in the field. It’s not what you’ve heard before, however, with lines of conversation that jump far beyond describing the problem and into tech solutions.

Our all-star lineup includes: Janae Sharp, founder of the Sharp Index, which aims to end physician suicide caused by burnout; Rasu Shrestha, M.D., MBA, chief strategy officer for Atrium Health and a top innovator in health IT; Heather Staples Lavoie, president of health data vendor Geneia, which also measures physician burnout; and moderator Geeta Nayyar, M.D., MBA, a health-tech executive and podcast/TV host who’s been ranked among the smartest in the business.

Before we get to their talk, Data Book digs into the very much abridged story of Sir William Osler, who some consider the father of modern medicine. We bring listeners to the scene of Osler’s 1892 speech commemorating a new med school building at the University of Minnesota, where he decries broken medical education and healthcare systems — and then pivots to discuss the flaws and potential of the individual doctor. From there, Data Book explores Osler’s role in establishing the medical residency program, the demands he placed on young doctors and, yes, even his desire to euthanize senior citizens past their workforce and intellectual prime.

The point is, Osler embodied nuance. In the same breath, he blasted structural forces and pinned blame on individual doctors, who operated under the undesirable effects of a questionable status quo. He advocated for more bedside learning but also effectively stripped his residents of their lives outside the hospital. He strived for better healthcare — and a fixed age, enforced by death via chloroform, for the elderly.

As healthcare grapples with physician burnout, it’s smart to keep nuance in mind. Yes, a new technology can cause burnout, isolating doctors and driving them away from their calling. But technology — better technology, no doubt — can also measure the problem and perhaps reduce it.

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The Slow, Frustrating Rise of the EHR

Shedding Light on the Culture Behind Physician Burnout

Identifying Measures to Fight Physician Burnout at the Enterprise Level

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